Huntsman: ‘I probably did more than anybody’ to fight one-child policy

It’s tough to change your political identity halfway through a campaign. Jon Huntsman will likely continue to be tagged as the "moderate" in the race, no matter how conservative his political record actually is. But the former Utah governor has seemed to be tacking to the right in recent days as he’s started to get ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

It's tough to change your political identity halfway through a campaign. Jon Huntsman will likely continue to be tagged as the "moderate" in the race, no matter how conservative his political record actually is. But the former Utah governor has seemed to be tacking to the right in recent days as he's started to get a bit of buzz in New Hampshire.

Take, for instance, this recent interview with RedState in which Huntsman reaffirms his anti-tax and anti-abortion credentials. Interestingly, the second subject involves his time as ambassador to China. He also made this somewhat grandiose claim:

Q. What, if anything, and let me break this up into two questions. What, if anything should be done by the United States to encourage China to change its "one child" policy?

It’s tough to change your political identity halfway through a campaign. Jon Huntsman will likely continue to be tagged as the "moderate" in the race, no matter how conservative his political record actually is. But the former Utah governor has seemed to be tacking to the right in recent days as he’s started to get a bit of buzz in New Hampshire.

Take, for instance, this recent interview with RedState in which Huntsman reaffirms his anti-tax and anti-abortion credentials. Interestingly, the second subject involves his time as ambassador to China. He also made this somewhat grandiose claim:

Q. What, if anything, and let me break this up into two questions. What, if anything should be done by the United States to encourage China to change its "one child" policy?

A. Well, uh, I probably did more than anybody. Uh, because my daughter Gracie was known by 1.3 billion people in China. Everybody heard her story. They knew that we had adopted her and given her life. Uh, they knew that she got to seek a great educational opportunity – a young, pretty, brilliant girl who was, I mean, it was all the time in China. I dare to say that our one act of adopting a girl, as United States Ambassador to China, in many minds – and this would be impossible to quantify – but I tell you, may have had more of an impact in that country, one thing, than all the speeches combined of U.S. government officials over the years.

Q. Okay. One thing that many people may not know is that India, where your other daughter was adopted from, certain parts of India are contemplating adopting a two child policy. What if anything can or should the United States do about that?

A. Well, I would just offer the same thing, and that is highlighting the beauty and the value of life. And there’s nothing more powerful than leading by example. And when you can lead by example by showing the kind of life that these little girls live when they are allowed into this world, I think that’s a very powerful manifestation all by itself.

I’m not quite sure I buy that all 1.3 billion of China’s citizens were aware of the U.S. ambassador’s daughter or that the mere fact of her existence did "more than anybody" to change Chinese minds on this issue, but this does seem like a smart issue to talk about. Social conservatives in the U.S. have strong objections to the one-child policy, but it’s not exactly like moderates are ethusiastic about it.

Huntsman’s promise to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits funding to international organizations that provide abortions, might be a little more controversial in the unlikely event he makes it past the primary.  

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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