Gov. Huntsman Talks Politics, China in GW Discussion

GW Professor David Shambaugh moderated the discussion, sponsored in part by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies.

September 18, 2012

The challenges the United States faces are serious and complex, and Jon Huntsman wants students to do something about it.

“It will be up to the ingenuity and resilience and engagement of your generation to get in, to look at things a little differently than we have in the past and actually bring about change,” the former Republican presidential hopeful and Utah governor said Monday in a moderated discussion at George Washington University’s Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre.

“Because of this education you’re receiving, because of the networks you’re making for yourselves here in the states and internationally, you’ll be in a position to do something about where we are. Don’t let us down.”

Doing something isn’t exactly easy, Gov. Huntsman acknowledged during the discussion sponsored by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Asia Society and moderated by David Shambaugh, GW professor of political science and international affairs. The country is battling three deficits. There’s that of the fiscal variety, with the nation’s debt reaching an unprecedented level. But there’s also a severe lack of trust and confidence, which are arguably as serious, Gov. Huntsman said.

Gov. Huntsman also encouraged students to become experts in an issue of national and international importance if they’re interested in public service.]

“There are generalists running around everywhere,” Gov. Huntsman said. “Nobody needs a generalist in today’s world. We need experts. We need people who are trained in the nuances, the history, the traditions, the culture of those we’re going to be dealing with during the course of your generation.”

But what kind of job does that translate to, exactly? It depends on what your heart tells you.

“Your heart never lies to you,” Gov. Huntsman said. “It always will tell you where to go and what to do.”

And although there’s less money with which to solve the greatest problems of the generation, the U.S. still has a “name brand” and values that are the “envy of the world,” Gov. Huntsman said.

As the former U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore, Gov. Huntsman also discussed the state of foreign policy in today’s presidential debates.

“I think it’s horrible there’s no real conversation about foreign policy,” he said. These types of discussions should be more prominent, he added, as foreign policy is a large part of the president’s work.

Gov. Huntsman said it’s necessary to be united at home with a strong economy to have effective foreign policy. It’s also important to develop better relationships with neighbors like Mexico and pay attention to big powers like China.

In its relationship with China, Gov. Huntsman said, the U.S. needs to be focused on doing things “that are big and bold that keep us focused on what we can do together and what constitutes our shared interests as opposed to where we converge.” The relationship also needs to be humanized, Gov. Huntsman said. Most people see it as large, complex and intimidating. Gov. Huntsman sees it differently.

“It’s a marriage where divorce isn’t an option,” he said. “We have to make it work. That’s the bottom line.”