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Balancing act for new US envoy to China

Business Times - 22 May 2009


Balancing act for new US envoy to China

Republican Jon Huntsman, who speaks fluent Mandarin, is clearly qualified for the job

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

TO say that US President Barack Obama's selection of Governor Jon Huntsman as the next American ambassador to Beijing came as a surprise to Washington's politicos and media types would be an understatement.

Not only is Mr Huntsman a leading Republican figure. In fact, he is the governor of Utah, a state that is considered by political experts as very, very 'red'.

Not the kind of red that Chairman Mao Zedong would have been keen on, but more like the colour associated with the Republican Party that has dominated the politics of this state where members of the conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons constitute the majority of the population.

Utah has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964 and, historically, Republican presidential nominees have …