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International Relations Government

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Screenshot of Jon Huntsman with daughter from China Daily site
Screenshot of Jon Huntsman with daughter from China Daily site

The China Daily runs a brilliant website detailing the China-connections of US officials, particularly in the new Obama administration, titled “US Officials and Their China Connections”. The page opens up with a logo of hearts and delicate Japanese-inspired cherry blossom twigs superimposed on a picture of the new US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and his adoptive Chinese daughter. How sweet.

And I don’t mean that sarcastically. It’s fascinating to see how an official Chinese media outlet maintains a page dedicated to seeing commonalities, finding links and promoting- on the surface at least- friendship between China and the US. It seems that in the more friendly atmosphere of the post-Bush world such connections are becoming assets on both sides of the Pacific and increasingly, as Timothy Geithner’s recent trip to China proved, are starting to inform the making of bilateral policy in a positive way.

Obama’s appointment of Huntsman as the Ambassador is the most obvious sign of bigger and better things to come. He has life-long ties to China through his family’s business, he speaks Mandarin and has adopted a Chinese girl with his wife. Huntsman has even gone on record to say that the US-China relationship is the most important one in the world. Obama, Huntsman assures us, feels the same way. And best of all, the website points out that Huntsman is indeed considered a potential front-runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Obama nominating him for this job, of course, might put an end to those grand plans.

Moreover, as the website proudly points out, more and more Chinese Americans are serving in Obama’s multicolored, multiracial and multicultural administration. America, it seems, is finally living up to its multicultural dream and China is taking note. The important posts of Energy Secretary and Secretary of Commerce, most notably, are now held by Steven Chu and Gary Locke, prominent Chinese Americans. Given that environmental issues, finance and commercial ties will likely dominate the US-Chinese agenda in the coming years, the Geithner-Chu-Locke trio is a kind of dream team for the two countries.

Coincidence or shrewd strategic planning, I ask you?

(…And in case you feel like getting some background on China- past, present, and future- check out our podcast on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.)

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