Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (R) may be backing Mitt Romney, but he isn’t offering a full-throated endorsement of his former rival’s proposed China policy.

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In an interview Thursday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Huntsman said his view of the U.S.-China relationship differs from that of Romney, who on Thursday penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed blasting the Obama administration’s China policy.

The op-ed comes one day after Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Washington.

”You were the ambassador, leading that policy,” Mitchell asked Huntsman. “Is Mitt Romney wrong?”


Republican presidential candidate, former Utah governor and China ambassador Jon Huntsman, announces his withdrawal from the race, Jan. 16. (David Goldman/AP)

Asked about his decision to endorse Romney even though he disagrees with him on China, Huntsman responded that he believes the former Massachusetts governor is “best-placed to do what needs to be done in terms of economic development and the creation of jobs.”

”When it comes to China, I think it’s wrongheaded when you talk about slapping a tariff on day one,” he continued. “That pushes aside the reality, the complexity of the relationship. You sit down at the table with somebody like Xi Jinping and you say, we’ve got North Korea, we’ve got Iran, we’ve got Pakistan, we’ve got Burma, we’ve got the South China Sea, we have trade and investment. And they all kind of interrelate, one with another, when you sit down and negotiate a deal. That’s just the way the U.S.-China relationship is, and has been for 40 years.”

Huntsman’s criticism of Romney on China is not new. In a January New Hampshire debate, the former ambassador to China whipped out the Mandarin in slamming Romney for suggesting that the U.S. should ratchet up pressure on China to increase the value of its currency.

“I think it’s important to note, as they would say in China, that ‘Ta bu tai liaojie zhege qingxing -- He doesn’t quite understand this situation,’” Huntsman said of Romney during the debate. “What he is calling for would lead to a trade war. It makes for easy talk and a nice applause line, but it’s far different from the reality in the U.S.-China relationship.”