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September 3, 2009

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New US envoy sees big-picture relationship

WRANGLING over the troubled global economy, climate change and security hotspots will test sometimes unsteady US-China relations the rest of this year, the new US ambassador to Beijing said yesterday.
A week and a half into his post, Ambassador Jon Hunstman said global, "big-picture issues" were coming to define relations between the two countries. At the top of President Barack Obama's instructions to him, he said, are shoring up the world economy, dealing with regional security troubles like Iran and Pakistan and securing an agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to pave the way for a new worldwide global warming treaty.
Both governments will have ample opportunity to air their positions, from Chinese President Hu Jintao's attendance at a summit of major economies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, later this month to Obama's planned Beijing visit in November and meetings of officials in between, Huntsman said. Friction looms on trade disputes, including a White House decision on whether to impose punitive tariffs on surging imports of Chinese tires.
"We'll put to the test the durability of the US-China relationship over the coming months," Hunstman said in an interview with US reporters, his first with American media since taking up his post.
Huntsman, the Republican governor of Utah before being named ambassador by Democrat Obama, described relations as more broadly based than at any time since diplomatic ties resumed 30 years ago. For much of that time, the 49-year-old Huntsman has been personally involved with China.
A Mandarin speaker from his days as a Mormon missionary on Taiwan Island, Huntsman has also served as a deputy US trade representative and US ambassador to Singapore. One of his seven children, a 10-year-old daughter, was adopted from eastern China's Yangzhou and, he said, is excited to be back in China.
In meetings with Hu last week and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi yesterday, Huntsman said he sensed a willingness to deal with disputes frankly and make sure disagreements do not undermine what both governments see as important overall relations.
"There's a desire to engage in forthright conversation," Huntsman said. "I think that's a sign of a mature relationship."


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