From my former student: Hi, I meant to ask you the other day about the Chinese ambassador to Canada Lu Shumin. I was a student ambassador at the City University of Hong Kong and was involved in a presentation that the Ambassador gave. It was quite a status quo speech about Sino-Canadian relations (bilateral communication will strengthens both countries). I had a chance to speak with him afterward and mentioned that you were one of my Professors at Brock. He said that he knew of you and then the conversation stopped abruptly, haha. I was wondering what your perception of his current involvement in Canadian-Sino relations is. Is he a productive ambassador? How is he trying to improve relations with Canada, if at all? I was just wondering how you felt about his position and goals? Thanks and have a good weekend.
My reply: I do have some sympathy for Mr. Lu as I think it is a lot harder to have to act as Chinese Ambassador to Canada than to be his counterpart, Rob Wright, the Canadian Ambassador to China. This is because as Ambassador he has to fulfil the mandate given him by the Chinese Communist Party. The mandate of the Mr. Lu's Embassy is to promote China's interests abroad by engaging foreign nationals with influence in their country and to encourage "understanding" of China. In our case the "understanding" that is hoped to be arrived at is that China's human rights record is not as bad as western media, NGOs and governments allege, and that such human rights shortcomings that do exist are due to historical, developmental and cultural factors that will be overcome "although it will take a long time" (a mantra repeated in both formal and informal discussions). It is a humiliating position to have to take and one that is less and less tenable as more and more information about what is really going on in China becomes more readily available to Canadians. Then the next recourse is to make dark threats that Canada's economic interests will suffer if we don't keep quiet on China human rights, keep away from the Dalai Lama, and the Uighurs, and the Falungong, and the Taiwanese, etc., etc. These threats for the most part don't seem to have much substance to them, but Mr. Lu is obliged to go through the motions by instructing his subordinates to strike a sort of vaguely menacing pose. It is a kind of diplomacy of desperation. It is for this kind of reason that the Chinese Foreign Ministry has trouble attracting top quality recruits these days. I guess what it comes down to is that Mr. Lu is in the wrong job at the wrong time. But I think there is no reason to doubt that he loves his country and is trying his best under difficult circumstances.