Jon Huntsman’s work as an ambassador to China in the Obama administration didn’t endear him to all Republicans during his 2012 presidential run. Yet he now has a unique, illuminating perspective on recent events in Hong Kong.
Huntsman told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos that despite the protests calling for the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, it is unlikely he will step down.
“That would be a loss of face, and chances are that will not occur,” Huntsman said. “I suspect there will be some sort of compromise on the way in which the candidates are selected.”
Huntsman’s presidential bid two years ago looked great on paper. As governor of Utah before he became an ambassador, Huntsman brought a moderate and worldly voice to the Republican field.
“You can say that the issues I advocated for were not necessarily the ones people were interested in,” Huntsman told Ramos. Now, Huntsman is the chairman of the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington and is still very engaged in politics – though he isn’t looking to return to the presidential campaign trail any time soon.
“No, I’m not considering running for the White House this cycle,” Huntsman said, dismissing recent reports he is exploring another bid, possibly as an independent. “Maybe we have one more run in us at some point, but not this political cycle.”
When Ramos asked Huntsman if he thought Mitt Romney should run again, he deferred to the Romney camp. But he warned that any Republican candidate will face a daunting battle against the demographic trends that have stymied the party’s presidential hopes.
“Right now the Republican party has some real bridge building to do with respect to youth, with respect to women, the Hispanic/Latino population, the Asian-American population, the African-American population, just to name a few,” Huntsman said.
To those drawing parallels between the Hong Kong protests and Tiananmen Square, Huntsman cautioned the struggling economy in 1989 fed unrest in a much different way than China’s vibrant, low-unemployment economy today. He also said that protest organizing tools are much more developed and impactful now, especially among young people.
“When there are bad politics, there are bad economics, there’s little in the way of hope or opportunity going forward for the emerging generation who are highly networked, and they know how to use that technology,” Huntsman said. He highlighted recent youth-led protests in Venezuela and Mexico.
“We’re just on the early, early stages of this as a political phenomenon, and I think we’re going to see a lot more of it,” Huntsman said.