Friday, February 01, 2008

Rough Translation of report in Singtao Daily that Proves Me Wrong on Canadian Government China Engagement Intensity

Liberal Party Attacks the Conservative Party for Ruining Canada-China Relations

by Singtao Daily Reporter, Mary Yang; January 17, 2008.
The recent statement by the Chinese Ambassador to Canada, Lu Shumin, has led the Federal Liberal Party to focus on worsening Canada-China relations. But the Conservative Party has responded by pointing to the genuine accomplishments that demonstrate the progress that Canada-China relations have made.
Last Thursday, Lu Shumin, in a talk to members of the Canada-China Friendship Association, said that "unfortunate developments" had led to a cooling in Canada-China relations. More and more Chinese people have developed a negative impression of Canada. This is not good news. It leads to progressive weakening in Canada-China relations. It is damaging for both countries. The Ambassador called for narrowing the differences between the two countries. If that is not possible, then seek common ground while agreeing to disagree on the rest. "If we mutually respect each other, then we can achieve very great progress."
The Federal Liberal Party issued a statement on Wednesday. Foreign Affairs Critic, Bob Rae, stated that Lu Shumin's talk demonstrates that Canada-China relations are tense. "For a diplomat to make such an unusual frank comment, clearly indicates that no matter how much the Conservative Party tries to pretend that all is well, bilateral relations between Canada and China have been severally damaged."
He further pointed out, the Conservative Party's ineffective China policy has been at a cost to the people of Canada as well as to the people of China. He cited the example of Ottawa's long delay in failing to implement an Approved Destination Status agreement as an example.
Neil Hrab, spokesman for Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxime Bernier, indicated to the Singtao Daily that since the Conservative Party came to power, Cabinet Ministers have visited China 8 times and that Prime Minister Harper had a very constructive meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the G-8 Summit Meeting. Over the period of Liberal Party Government Canada-China Trade levels stalled with no forward movement, but it is increasing is double digits now. in 2007, Canada's commodity exports to China increased by 29%. Canada-China relations need frank and open dialogue, so that our nation can make genuine achievements that reflect Canadian values and interests.
Canadian scholar, Charles Burton says that that the Liberal Party is simply using this as a means to attack the Conservative Party, as Lu Shumin has made this sort of statement in the past. Burton indicates that that this is simply Lu Shumin attempting to protect China's interests, as its authorities would prefer that human rights not be a central issue in relations between Canada and China. Bilateral relations have not worsened in the grave way that the Liberal Party tries to make out. When the Liberal Party was in power, Canada also raised human rights with the Chinese.
(original Chinese can be found at

Comment: In my my op-ed piece for Embassy: Canada's Foreign Policy Newsletter entitled "A 'Principled' Approach, Quiet Diplomacy and the Prime Minister's Message to Beijing" published November 14th, 2007 ( I wrote that "intensity of engagement with China will likely be lessened in years ahead." The statement above by Neil Hrab clearly puts the lie to this. I had evidently misread the implications of a statement on foreign policy made last October in the House of Commons entitled "The Americas as a Priority." Further suggesting that I am happily wrong about this, in a speech at the University of Alberta on January 18, 2008, Secretary of State Helena Guergis said "we are committed to sustained high level engagement. Since our government came to office, there have been eight ministerial visits to China, including two visits by the Minister of International Trade David Emerson, who just returned from a visit to China and Mongolia last week."
Of course I do not think that Ambassador Lu's idea that we "seek common ground while agreeing to disagree on the rest" is such a good approach. I think that we show more mutual respect if we are honest with each other about all of our concerns. I don't think it is helpful to either side to take human rights off the agenda on an "agree to disagree" basis, as much as the Chinese authorities might thank Canada for doing that.

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