New US Ambassador to China Pushes Improved Ties

The newly-arrived U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, says his top priority is to take the U.S.-China relationship to "new heights," despite lingering and inevitable differences between the two countries.

Ambassador Jon Huntsman's 23-year-old daughter, Mary Anne, Saturday serenaded journalists with a Rachmaninoff etude. The Huntsman family had just arrived in Beijing less than 24 hours before, so this was her first time playing the grand piano in the ambassador's formal living room.

Huntsman said he is delighted to be in China - in English and in Mandarin Chinese.

He appeared before reporters with his wife, Mary Kaye, and three of their seven children. His two youngest daughters are adopted - three year old Asha is from India and 10-year old Gracie May is from China.

The new U.S. ambassador acknowledged that in the past, the U.S.-China relationship has been plagued by differences over issues such as human rights.

"Sometimes, when we had difficulties and challenges, the relationship has come to a stop," he said. "And the work hasn't been able to get done. And that's not only unfortunate for people in the U.S. and China, but it's unfortunate for the people throughout the rest of Asia, all of whom depend on a good U.S.-China relationship."

He said he believes the U.S.-China relationship has to transcend the disagreements, which he stressed will always be there, and instead focus on shared interests.

"Specifically, when you look at energy and climate change, regional security and global economy, if we're going to tackle all of those successfully, by definition, we would have risen to new heights," said Huntsman.

Huntsman pointed out that 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of Sino-American ties.

He said U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit China in November, and that he is confident that by the end of the year, the US-China relationship will be "stronger than ever before."