The U.S. Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, is resigning amid reports he is considering a run for the presidency in 2012. In Beijing, the Chinese government indicates the popular diplomat will be missed.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei noted the reports that Ambassador Jon Huntsman will be stepping down.
Hong says the Chinese government speaks positively about Ambassador Huntsman’s contribution to the positive, comprehensive and cooperative China-US relationship.
A White House spokesman Monday confirmed that Huntsman, a Republican, will be leaving his post.
Huntsman has been the ambassador for two major visits - President Barack Obama to China in November 2009 and Chinese President Hu Jintao to the United States last month.
In a joint news conference with the Chinese president last month, Mr. Obama praised Huntsman for doing an outstanding job.
"He is a Mandarin speaker. He has brought enormous skill, dedication and talent to the job," he said. "And the fact that he comes from a different party I think is a strength, not a weakness, because it indicates the degree to which both he and I believe that partisanship ends at the water’s edge, and that we work together to advocate on behalf of our country."
The former Utah state governor surprised many strategists in his Republican Party when he accepted the post in China in 2009, representing a Democratic administration.
Now, prominent Republican political advisers have begun to assemble a campaign operation to look into whether Huntsman should run for president in 2012.
Mr. Obama joked that Huntsman’s service to his Democratic administration may not help him garner support if he were to seek the Republican presidential nomination.
"And I’m sure he will be very successful in whatever endeavors he chooses in the future. And I’m sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary," he said.
The 50-year-old Huntsman is a popular figure in China, which is the birthplace of one of his adopted daughters. Users on Sina Weibo’s instant messaging site Tuesday supported the diplomat, saying if he were to become president, it would be a good thing for China.
The White House spokesman says he has no indication that Huntsman will run for president.
Huntsman is expected to leave his post April 30.