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Former U.S.-China Ambassador Jon Huntsman speaks at the UW

Students and faculty alike packed Kane Hall on Tuesday night to listen to Jon Huntsman Jr., former ambassador to China from 2009 to 2011, speak about the past and future relations between the United States and China.

Moderated by Richard Ellings, president of the National Bureau of Asian Research and former assistant director of the UW Jackson School of International Studies, the event featured questions about the possibilities of free-trade agreements with China, the relations between China and other Asian nations, such as Taiwan or Tibet, and more.

Since Huntsman’s childhood introduction to U.S.-China relations in 1971, China has erupted onto the world stage. Even as an “economic storm,” in his words, blew across the world, China had a strong economy and managed to gain the second-largest economy in the world. 

Huntsman, Republican primary presidential candidate, said countries must have bureaucracy, public servants, and a population willing to engage on a global level in order to succeed. Huntsman also said the U.S.-China relationship is no longer bilateral, either, but encompasses a global outlook. 

When asked about how UW students can participate in fostering Sino-U.S. relations, Huntsman suggested students dedicate part of their studying to learning the language, politics, history, or culture of China to eradicate the barriers, both imagined and real, that exist between our two nations. 

“There won’t be a more important relationship for the next generation than [the] U.S.-China relationship,” Huntsman said. “It only makes sense to prepare.”

Rep. Hans Zeiger (25th District) also attended the talk. He said he believed it was important for U.S. politicians, particularly in the Pacific Rim, to engage in conversation. He spoke about plans to visit China to gain better understanding of its cultural and political system.

Hunstman said one of the problems facing the United States doesn’t come from the global community but from the division within the country. 

“It’s destroying who we are as a people,” Huntsman said. 

Audience member Jane Davies, education manager of Early Head Start — an early-childhood learning center in Seattle — said she was honored to be at the UW listening to Huntsman. 

“I used to do this as a kid in Los Angeles — you walk across the street and shake the hands of your neighbors that are from a different background, different religion, different political persuasion, and have conversations that are diverse in nature,” Huntsman said. “We don’t do enough of that. That concerns me; that concerns me greatly.”

Reach reporter Deanna Isaacs at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @DeeLiteraryOne 

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