- - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Huntsman’s China problem

A central issue in the current presidential campaign season in the United States is how to deal with China. Admittedly, the candidate for the White House who has the most prominent qualifications for tackling the China issue is Jon Huntsman Jr., President Obama’s former ambassador to China, who speaks passable Chinese and has extensive emotional and intellectual understanding of that vast communist country.

The problem is that Mr. Huntsman is unlikely to succeed in advocating moderate policies toward China, including avoiding a trade war with Beijing by steadfastly engaging the Chinese government. That’s because China is a state that brooks no compromise. The Chinese government clings to a deeply rooted conspiracy theory that all American politicians are predisposed to dislike China’s communist government, implying that “moderate,” China-friendly politicians must be hiding their true colors. The Chinese government thinks all it needs to do is look and it will break through the facade of moderates like Mr. Huntsman to prove their paranoia.

Mr. Huntsman’s alleged anti-China true colors were revealed by China last month, and as a result, he is almost persona non grata in the eyes of the Chinese government.


China’s anti-Huntsman tirade was triggered by a remark made by the former Utah governor during the GOP candidate debate in Iowa in mid-November. “We should be reaching out to our allies and constituencies within China. They’re called the young people. They’re called the Internet generation … and they are bringing about change the likes of which is going to take China down.”

Immediately after his comments, China’s state-run media took after Mr. Huntsman for the “take China down” comment, even though he was referring to an internal Chinese force that has little to do with American government.

The official communist newspaper Global Times published a hit piece on Nov. 19 in both Chinese and English, headlined “U.S. Elites Mulling How to ‘Take China Down.’ ” According to the state-run paper, Mr. Huntsman told a truth by accident; his “take China down” comment was not a slip of the tongue but the “real thinking of many U.S. political elites.” “Huntsman is encouraging Americans to bring about the disintegration and collapse of China’s current political system,” the newspaper gushed. “Huntsman’s way of thinking gives us a clearer picture of the political wisdom and morality of the US presidential candidates.”

Having proved the grand conspiracy of the United States, Global Times concluded with this disturbing thought: “Perhaps Huntsman’s words can also serve as a blessing in disguise for the Chinese people. They let us know that some hostility from the outside cannot be dissolved by our good will. We must develop our own strength to break their wild ambition of ‘taking China down.’ “

The China-friendly former Mr. Ambassador thus inexplicably became a dragon slayer.

Manhunt in China

Beneath the facade of an apparently stable and prosperous China lies an active volcano of seismic social tension and discontent. In fact, this year’s annual budget for police forces in the country is even larger than its exploding defense budget, the world’s second-largest. That’s why China’s rulers closely monitor and swiftly suppress any signs of social unrest. Topping the list of China’s internal security concerns is the stability of its armed forces, the bedrock of the communist government’s hold on power.

On Nov. 9, a rare publicly announced manhunt became a sensational news story within the tightly controlled communist state. Apparently, four People’s Liberation Army soldiers went AWOL in the northeastern province of Jilin, carrying with them a Type 95 automatic rifle and about 800 rounds of ammunition.Their officially issued “Wanted” poster was widely circulated in the Chinese Internet. However, by evening, all Internet items related to the manhunt went AWOL themselves and were removed quickly from China’s heavily censored Internet. Days later, eyewitnesses reported three of the four fleeing soldiers had been gunned down in a firefight with the pursuing Chinese armed police. One was captured alive.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.