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US ex-envoy lauds Taiwan for improving cross-strait ties

Publication Date : 19-07-2012


Former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman lauded Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday for prescience even amid presidential approval ratings that dipped recently to an all-time low.

On Wednesday Huntsman delivered a talk titled “America 2012: Challenges and Opportunities” in an event coordinated by the think tank Taipei Forum.

“From your vantage as a faithful friend to Taiwan, do you think the government — either the Ma or the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government — in power ought to accelerate and improve relations with China, or to control it and make it less (close)?” asked a forum guest after the lecture.

Improving China-Taiwan relations is crucial in today's global landscape, Huntsman said.

Ma has improved cross-strait relations beyond “what I ever would have guessed,” he continued, citing cross-strait educational exchanges, tourism flows and trade agreements.

Huntsman said he met Ma the day before and praised him in person for his efforts to strengthen cross-strait ties.

“It's hard and you don't get immediate political returns from it — and in a democracy like yours, you're always worried about political returns. But there's also something called vision and leadership, where it's important to do the right thing that benefits the most people.”

Huntsman said that issues concerning China are set to become more difficult and confrontational.

“Why? Because you're making progress. Any time you make progress on these issues, the issues become more and more difficult. There were no issues before, because there was no discussion, nothing to talk about, nothing to do,” he said.

In his lecture, Huntsman noted a particular challenge for bilateral relations with China's new leadership, the so-called fifth generation.

China's “fourth-generation” leaders were shaped by the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, whereas the new “fifth-generation” leadership has been tempered by China's recent economic growth spurt.

Huntsman said he observes “a level of humility” and political caution in the fourth generation, but the fifth is marked by a deep nationalism and a “heightened sense of their place in history.”

These characteristics will trigger changes in the way China conducts its government and its business. After the fifth generation accedes to power in October, all nations including the US must discover ways to adapt.

The former diplomat yesterday was wrapping up his three-day visit, during which he met with DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang, Ma at the Presidential Office and Foreign Minister Timothy Yang.

Huntsman, who dropped out of the race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination early 2012, hinted at a second run in 2016 — as an independent.

At the forum yesterday, Huntsman said that he had not been competitive in the more conservative Iowa but did relatively well in New Hampshire, “an interesting state” that “votes on the person” and not on party.

Unaffiliated voters are the fastest-growing bloc in the US today, which means that there may be openings in the next election cycle for “an alternative approach,” he said.

While getting a third candidate on a state ballot is a challenge today, “the political dynamic will change in years to come.”

But Huntsman kept conservative when asked outright on whether he intends to run.

“You have to be a little crazy to run for president once, and probably very crazy to run twice,” he said with a smile.

“I don't know if I'm very crazy.”


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