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Former ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. discusses China in Wall Street Journal op-ed piece

Published: Monday, May 7 2012 2:01 p.m. MDT

A police officer stands guard in the middle of two images featuring blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng during a protest in front of the Chinese central government's liaison in Hong Kong Friday, May 4, 2012.

Vincent Yu, Associated Press

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As diplomatic tensions over the escape of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng begin to ease after a tentative deal was struck, former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. weighed in with an op-ed, calling the China's leaders "profoundly insecure."

In his Wall Street Journal piece, the former Utah governor wrote that the complicated drama ultimately shows a Chinese government that fears liberalization that could threaten its authority. The issue has sparked Chinese accusations of Chen being a "tool" of U.S. leaders, U.S. officials calling Chen "self absorbed," and Chen saying he was "very disappointed at the U.S. government."

"There is no other relationship in the world that, if mismanaged, carries greater long-term negative consequences for the U.S., the Asia-Pacific region, and the world," Huntsman wrote. "By contrast, wise stewardship of the relationship will make us and our allies safer, wealthier and more confident about global stability in the future."

Huntsman wrote that the U.S. policy toward China should rest on a number of points, including:

Economics. The U.S., Huntsman wrote, must get its financial house in order by undertaking difficult structural reforms.

Trade. The U.S. should be pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, along with free trade agreements with Japan, Taiwan and India.

Allies. Renewing ties to key allies would hedge against difficult regional contingencies.

Values. The U.S. must live up to its ideals and demonstrate it is worthy of China's admiration and emulation.

"Chen Guangcheng has given us an opening that we can either see as a source of conflict or as an opening for expanding our dialogue on issues that increasingly matter to so many in China," Huntsman said. "The world will be watching."

Abby Huntsman Livingston, Huntsman's daughter, criticized President Barack Obama for the handling of the Chen situation, while also criticizing presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. On May 3, Romney slammed the administration for news reports suggesting U.S. officials urged Chen to leave the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

"What happens in the U.S. embassy in China should be within the hands of the officials on the ground and the State Department," Livingston said. "It should not be a political issue here in the U.S."

Chen, who drew China's ire by campaigning against forced abortions, told The Associated Press that he is confident a deal that would allow him to study in the U.S. will be upheld by the Chinese government.

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