Obama Selects Huntsman for China Post

Posted May 16, 2009 at 9:14am

President Barack Obama on Saturday tapped Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to serve as U.S. ambassador to China. The moderate Republican, who won a second term in November with 77 percent of the vote, will resign his seat to take the sensitive diplomatic post. The nomination requires Senate approval.

With Obama at his side, Huntsman recited his “favorite Chinese aphorism— in the Mandarin language that he mastered as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan: “Together we work, together we progress.—

Obama said the Beijing ambassadorship is “as important as any in the world— and noted that the U.S. relationship with China is freighted with momentous issues including economic recovery, nuclear nonproliferation, North Korea, Pakistan and the fight against terrorism.

The relationship, Obama said, requires candor and, on the economic front, “playing by the rules in open and honest competition.— He said his new ambassador would play an essential role in creating “a new era of partnership between our two countries.—

Huntsman, 49, has made a splash in political circles as a moderate, articulate voice for the Republican Party whose future could include a presidential run. He was also a national co-chairman of Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) presidential run against Obama last year.

—I wasn’t looking for a new job,— Huntsman said, “but a call from the president changed that.— He said he “grew up understanding the most basic responsibility is service to country.—

Praise for the governor crosses party lines. David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, told the Associated Press that Huntsman is a Republican who “seems to understand the party has to adjust — not stubbornly believe that everything is OK and it is the country that has to change.—

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) told the Salt Lake Tribune: “I think this is just a great bipartisan appointment. I think it’s just super for Governor Huntsman, as well. This is a pretty significant appointment in the world of ambassadorships. This is pretty much the top of the list in terms of importance. It’s a big deal for him and it’s a big deal for our state.—

Huntsman served as ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and as deputy U.S. trade representative during President George W. Bush’s first term, and he was elected governor of Utah in 2004.

Huntsman has an adopted child from China, as well as one from India and five biological children with his wife, Mary Kaye.

Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert would become governor when Huntsman resigns.