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Former U.S. ambassador criticizes Romney's China policy

Beijing – In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney published an opinion piece, in which he branded President Obama “a near supplicant to Beijing” and argued the current administration was taking America “in precisely the wrong direction” on issues of trade, defense and rights.

Condemnation of Romney’s piece was understandably swift from the left, but somewhat surprising was the criticism that came from the presidential frontrunner’s flank by former rival-turned-supporter Jon Huntsman.

 Appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports yesterday, Huntsman was asked about Romney’s op-ed piece.

The former U.S. Ambassador to China and former Governor of Utah responded to a section in which Romney declared, “Unless China changes its ways, on day one of my presidency I will designate it a currency manipulator and take appropriate counteraction. A trade war with China is the last thing I want, but I cannot tolerate our current trade surrender.”

“I would disagree with some of what Governor Romney has said,” said Huntsman, before later adding, “I think it’s wrongheaded when you talk about slapping a tariff on Day 1.”

However, Huntsman defended his endorsement of Romney, saying, “I happen to think that on the economy he's best placed to do what needs to be done in terms of economic development and the creation of jobs.”

Huntsman’s final piece of advice for the Republican candidates on dealing with China?

“Less pandering – take a step back and analyze with a clear vision,” he said. “[This relationship] is not going to be based on sound bites, it’s not going to be based on short-term fixes and solutions – it is a long term play between our people.”

Huntsman also discussed Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping’s visit to the U.S. this week and Vice-President Joe Biden’s tough talk on Beijing.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, picked up on Huntsman’s criticism of Romney, but there was no mention of the Romney opinion piece elsewhere in official Chinese media.