Why the Hunstman-for-President speculation badly misses the pointInternational


The complete lack of interest in eastern Asia within MSM was exposed (again) with the recent flare-up in speculation that John Hunstman, current American Ambassador to the Chinese Communist regime, refused to rule out running for President in 2012. The State neatly summarizes the reaction, which completely focuses on Hunstman’s Republican bona fides and how (or if) he could manage to run against his current boss (for more on Hunstman himself, see the Los Angeles Times). Even Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard was stuck on the domestic political implications.

No one, to date, has even bothered to ask why Hunstman would consider leaving in the first place. He is, after all, Ambassador to the CCP regime. If this were an Ambassador to a European nation considering a run against the president who appointed him, or a Middle Eastern nation, speculation would almost certainly focus on policy differences. In fact, given the Obama Administration’s recent policies on the CCP, this may be the most important (if unrecognized) reason.

Lest we forget, Hunstman signed up for the job expecting (as nearly everyone else did) that he would be the point man for continued “engagement” with the ChiComs. Instead, Hunstman has watched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly rebuke the CCP for trying to claim the South China Sea and the Senkakus for itself (Duncan Currie: National Review Online - The Corner). Then the president engaged in a post-election tour of Asia that included all of Zhongnanhai’s major rivals expect Vietnam, but not Hunstman’s posting itself.

Finally, there was the reaction to the recent antics from Stalinist North Korea, in which the early inaction (disappointing for those of us looking to send a message to the CCP) was followed by . . . more inaction (a pleasant surprise for those of us expecting concessions to Beijing and Pyongyang).

So what does a marginalized ambassador who is watching the Administration for which he works move toward a policy unseen in 20 years – and a policy the ambassador himself opposes to boot?

Drop broad hints that you could turn from appointee to rival is a good way to get attention. It worked wonders for opponents of American military action in Iraq.

Unfortunately for Hunstman (and fortunately for the rest of us, if only in this case), American MSM still hasn’t paid enough attention to Obama’s Asia policy. The combination of domestic politics and traditional attention bias toward Europe or the Middle East has blinded nearly everyone to the fact that the policy Hunstman was appointed to promote and the policy into which the Administration has stumbled are quite different.

So, I think we can expect more heartburn from Hunstman, until the media begin to notice what the Administration is actually doing in eastern Asia (our allies there already know, and are deeply grateful). In the meantime, it must be enormously painful for the CCP to discover that everything it has tried, from provocations by its Korean colony to rumblings from its American friends, has failed to change Washington slow-but-steadying drift toward anti-Communism.

The Obama Administration continues to be far weaker than it should on human rights in the CCP, but in the purely geopolitical realm, its policy in eastern Asia continues to be an improvement over its three most recent predecessors. It would be nice for someone other than the CCP itself or the American Ambassador there to notice.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby