Jon Huntsman: China’s successes should be political motivation for U.S.

Jon Huntsman Jr, the former Governor of Utah and US Ambassador to China, delivers a speech titled, "China: Opportunities and Challenges" at the final Distinguished Speakers Board event of the 2013/2014 school year. Huntsman is largely considered one of the most knowledgeable American politicians on Chinese-American affairs. Macky Auditorium, April 15, 2014. (Nigel Amstock/CU Independent)
Former governor of Utah and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr. delivers a speech titled “China: Opportunities and Challenges” on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 in Macky Auditorium on the CU campus. Huntsman is largely considered one of the most knowledgeable American politicians on Chinese-American affairs. (Nigel Amstock/CU Independent)

The millennial generation can help change the current state of American politics, said Jon Huntsman, Jr., former ambassador to China and former governor of Utah in his lecture “China: Opportunities and Challenges” on Tuesday in Macky Auditorium.

Jon Huntsman visited the University of Colorado as part of the Distinguished Speakers Board’s final spring event to discuss the political scene in the United States. He also outlined his views on what the next decade will look like for America’s constant competitor, China, and its current president, Xi Jinping.

“For the sake of the millennial generation, we need to work in this country on maximizing and strengthening our democracy,” Huntsman said.  “It’s a bad sign when kids your age begin to peel away from the system because they feel that your vote and your voice no longer matters.”

After visiting various primary states early on in his 2012 presidential campaign, in which he was a Republican candidate, Huntsman said people still show up to town hall meetings. But, he said, people are hesitant toward the government because of the divided state of politics.

Huntsman said we are experiencing human failure because politicians do not know how to work with each other and cannot often get the most fundamental issues solved. Part of the problem is that their political positions are at opposite ends of the spectrum, with few representing the middle ground.

He talked about the year 1982, when the House of Representatives had 344 members who had voting records that “fell between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican.” These politicians occupied what is known as “purple geography” and were able to get more done because people collaborated and exchanged ideas, Huntsman said.

“Today, we don’t have 344 to occupy that purple territory; we have 11 in the House of Representatives,” Huntsman said. “And the Senate? Give me a break, we have zero.”

Huntsman said Americans need to get involved in the system in order to maximize democracy. He discussed a new website called, dedicated to problem-solving in the political system. The shift away from split political parties will be critical as the country moves toward the 2016 presidential election, Huntsman said.

As a former ambassador, Huntsman also spoke about China’s emergence as an economic competitor with the United States.

“We will see, over the next 10 years, China’s rise and its bump, certainly economically, against the United States,” Huntsman said.

According to Huntsman, China’s president Xi Jinping will be singularly responsible for deciding how to deal with his country’s problems, including debt, unemployment and corruption, in ways that will not only help the country but will also support his political party.

“Xi Jinping is going to be around for 10 years,” Huntsman said. “I would suggest you learn the name and get to know something about him.”

Another challenge Xi Jinping will face is dealing with the 800 million farmers whose jobs are disappearing in a world where only 200 million farmers are needed, Huntsman said.

Huntsman went on to say that these farmers will have to move from rural areas to urban areas, and the government may be uncertain how to face the influx of new residents.

“Urbanization is a huge deal [in China],” Huntsman said.

Xi Jinping is promising the Chinese people that they can have confidence in their future and that their needs will be taken care of, but Huntsman said that it won’t be an easy task.

China will be the country to watch over the next decade as its citizens’ voices grow stronger and their president makes powerful political moves. Meanwhile, the U.S. can watch and learn.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Stacia Sellers at 

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