Charlie Rose Talks to Jon Huntsman
How do you see the leadership change in China?
They feel their time has arrived, that they deserve a position on the world stage. Their hubris is tempered by China’s slack economic performance. They have real challenges around the bend. Commodity prices will drop, inventories will rise, and nonperforming loans will begin to appear on balance sheets. That confidence is also put in check by a very restive population, driven by 600 million Internet users and 90 million bloggers driving a conversation that is speaking to greater reform. That’s something that the new party leadership will have to get on top of as soon as they finish consolidating their power.
Will Xi Jinping be able to pull off the transition from export-led economy to a domestic demand-driven one?
The jury is out. One thing is for sure: In order to get from point A to point B, they’re going to have to focus on expanding industry, which will drive up opportunity and real wages, and allow for consumption to begin taking place. They’re going to have to keep their eye on innovation. You can’t be an innovative, creative society, which China desperately wants to be, without recognizing the role of the Internet in society.
Doesn’t that raise the specter of political instability?
The primary goal for the regime is stability, because stability equals continued primacy of the Communist Party. So they’re willing to pull whatever levers are necessary in order to achieve stability. We’ve seen everything from the draconian use of force from 1989 in Tiananmen Square to the 4 trillion yuan [$642 billion] subsidy to the economy in 2008—all with an eye focused towards stability. And you can’t have stability unless you can deliver jobs.
You said recently that this is a chance to strengthen U.S.-China ties.
Our political calendars have become synchronized. We’ve had our elections and they’ve had their leadership changes at roughly the same time. Both sides will want to make the relationship work. We’ll have to take full advantage of the two- or three-year opening that lies ahead—an opening where we can put forward a true 21st century agenda, recognizing that the U.S.-China relationship is no longer just a bilateral affair, it’s a global affair. And peace and prosperity globally will be significantly impacted by how well we coordinate.
First, the U.S. has to avoid the fiscal cliff. Will the election make compromise on that more likely?
For the first time in a long while in the weeks ahead, we’re going to have a national moment of clarity. Elections are a very interesting thing in the sense that they really do reset the American mood, they allow us to move forward, not with politics but with real fixes and solutions—policy. The message, loud and clear from the voters, was please focus on reality-based solutions.
What was the message from voters to the Republican Party?
The message is, the Republican Party represents too much of a fearful future instead of one based on hope and optimism. I’m guessing there are a lot of great farmers, teachers, and business folks out there who are feeling they deserve a whole lot better.
Should immigration reform be at the top of the Republican list?
When you lose the Hispanic-Latino vote 70-30, when you lose the youth vote 60-40, you’ve got some real work to do. I supported the Dream Act … and I was pummeled during the Republican primary for having done so. Now we wake up to the reality that we’re losing large chunks of the voting population.
Would you take a post in the Obama Cabinet?
There’s no sense addressing hypotheticals. Let my career be the answer to that question. If I were to say no, it would be disingenuous and counter to everything that I’ve preached throughout my professional life. You always want to be in a position to help your country.
Is our country in need?
Our country has problems on many fronts, and it’s a critically important period to focus, first and foremost, on getting our house in order. We have a very, very bright future. If you look around the bend, you can imagine our manufacturing engines being refired as a result of new fuels like natural gas [and] workforce training programs. The rest of the global economy is dead, and we remain standing. The right choices over the next couple of years could ensure real prosperity and long-term stability for this country.