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Huntsman Jr. discusses US-China relations at UVU summit

By Ashtyn Asay - Daily Herald | Jun 10, 2022

Jay Drowns, UVU Marketing

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. speaks during the China Challenge Summit held at Utah Valley University on Thursday, June 9, 2022. Huntsman was the U.S. ambassador to China from 2009-11.

“China has probably a five-year lead on our best technology in what could be the most important industrial revolution this country experiences in a hundred years,” Jon Huntsman, Jr. said.

The former governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to China was one of the keynote speakers at the first annual China Challenge Summit. The summit, hosted Thursday between Utah Valley University and World Trade Center Utah, brought together leaders and experts on U.S.-China relations, economic and trade policy and geopolitical strategy.

This summit was put on with the intention of providing businesses leaders and civilians with a deeper understanding of China’s geopolitical strategy, trade, business and foreign policies — as well as U.S. foreign policy toward China. Speakers also discussed how U.S. policymakers and businesses should respond to the challenges posed by these topics.

“The rise of China is real, the shift of power is real… what does this all mean?” said Astrid S. Tuminez, president of UVU, in her opening remarks. “What does this all mean for U.S. leadership? For American economic power, military power, and sovereign power? How do we build America in a world that is in flux?”

The China Challenge Summit took place on UVU’s Orem Campus at the Noorda Center and had over 1,200 in-person and online participants. Notable speakers included Matt Pottinger, former deputy national security advisor, and Miles Hansen, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, in addition to Huntsman..

Kennedy Evans, UVU Marketing

Utah Valley University co-hosts with The World Trade Center a summit talking with experts of China in the Noorda Center and the Clark building at Utah Valley University in Orem on Thursday, June 9, 2022.

According to Huntsman, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to China under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011, some of his colleagues were surprised that he was attending a summit on China at UVU, rather than at a more well-known think tank. He told them finding new solutions would required different ways of evaluating problems.

“We need a new locale for new thinking, we need a new generation of people who are going to take a look at our challenge of the century, which is China,” he said. “This is the new west, this is where new thinking is occurring… this is where new technologies are being advanced, developed and commercialized. This is where people really care about the global environment, they want to make sense of it. ”

Huntsman used a recent experience, riding in a Chinese self-driving car from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in Israel, to illustrate how advanced Chinese technology has become. He stated that China and the U.S. are in a technology war, but it seems that China is “playing for keeps.”

“Have any of you driven the traffic patterns between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv lately? Pretty rough. This driverless car performed brilliantly on the 45-minute drive,” he said.

Huntsman stated that he’s tired of hearing that relations with China are the most pressing challenge of the century for the United States, but never hearing any solutions proposed.

“We’ve known for a long time that… the challenge of the century would be China, so what do we do about that? Whether it’s the economic domain, the trade domain, who’s gonna write the rules of these things?” he said. “Failure is not an option, nobody wants world war three, nobody wants the destruction of this planet for a hundred years, so there has to be co-existence. Nobody knows what it is because nobody’s talking about it.”

Huntsman called for listeners to get beyond taking an aggressive stance toward China, to instead engage and come up with solutions to present and future challenges.

“Anybody who’s been steeped in the information about China, where it’s going, what its plans and intentions are would be a little bit hawkish, but we’ve got to get beyond that,” he said. “We’ve got to get beyond what a level of healthy engagement can be, understanding full well that there may be some challenges in our day, in this relationship going forward. But I can tell you that… I think we’re on the front end of what will be a defining decade in the U.S. China relationship.”

According to Huntsman, the next 10 years will be a significant turning point for the United States and China, but it is how the U.S. strategizes and prepares for upcoming challenges that will make all the difference.

The plenary session of the summit included panels entitled “China’s Global Influence and Geopolitical Strategy,” “U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy: Then and Now,” and “Business Intelligence for Navigating China.” Additional breakout sessions included discussions on China’s domestic economy, risks and benefits of doing business in China, and global competition in technology and innovation.

The U.S.-China Business Council, Kroll, the Albright Stonebridge Group, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Intel, Strider Technologies, Council on Foreign Relations, Microsoft, Georgetown University, NYSHEX, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Hoover Institution, Palantir Technologies, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The Wall Street Journal were all represented by panelists at this summit.

It is anticipated that UVU will hold another China Challenge Summit sometime next year. According to Hansen, the success of this year’s summit will be determined by whether or not it forced attendees to challenge their assumptions on U.S.-China relations and inspired them to take positive action.

“We’ll judge the success of today’s conference not by how great the discussions are… but by the positive action that each and every one of us takes as a result of spending time here at Utah Valley University today,” Hansen said. “If any one of us goes through with today’s program without feeling a little uncomfortable, without feeling like there’s something they disagree with or are being disagreed with, then we haven’t done a good job as organizers preparing the program.”


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