Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Defence of Fred Taylor

In this morning's National Post Robert Fulford has written a review of John Virtue's new book published by McGill-Queen's University Press which is entitled Fred Taylor: Brother in the Shadows. The review is entitled "Bitter Fred turned red: Lazy communism and E.P. Taylor's little brother" (can be read here). Mr. Fulford's article paints my uncle Fred (actually my maternal grandmother's cousin), an artist based in Montreal and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, in a highly negative light Seems there is not single good thing to be said about him. According to Fulford he was unprincipled because (the way Fulford depicts it) his political commitment to Stalinism was easily terminated when my Aunt Florence (his mother) cut off his allowance, his paintings were lousy, he was an angry and petty man who treated his wives and servants very badly and so he committed suicide in 1987 because he was "so displeased by his life."

 I haven't read the book itself yet, so Fulford may not be characterizing it entirely accurately.

Nevertheless I did carry on quite a lot of correspondence with Uncle Fred when I was a student in the 1970s. He always wrote back from Mexico promptly on airmail paper using a nib pen and brown ink. His nephew, a former Globe and Mail China correspondent and writer, Charles Taylor was an elder brother-like mentor figure to me when I was a student at Trinity College of the U of Toronto (we are both named "Charles" after our common ancestor, E.P. Taylor's grandfather, Charles Magee). Uncle Fred was a common topic of our conversation. Charles and I had great affection and respect for him, as did everybody else in the family insofar as I was aware.

 My grandmother, Mary Greaves went to stay with Uncle Fred and Aunt Nova in Mexico at least twice before she died in 1962. She was very fond of them both.

The facts given in Mr. Virtue's book may indeed be true, but we people who knew Fred Taylor well all loved him.

 And I very much admired his paintings, water colours and etchings too.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Frolic Frolic

Toronto Sun April 10, 2008:
Mayor David Miller leads a controversial trade mission to China Sunday, calling the trip important to the city's economic future.
Despite calls from Tibetan activists to cancel the one-week trip amid China's violent crackdown on protests, Miller insisted yesterday he will use the visit as an opportunity to speak out "where appropriate" on human rights and conditions in Tibet.
"We must stand up for Torontonians' values, like human rights," Miller said to applause during a keynote speech at a Toronto Board of Trade luncheon.
York University professor Bernie Frolic will also give lectures on human rights at Chinese universities during the trip, Miller said.

National Post April 15, 2008, p. A7:
He said he wouldn't forget about human rights, noting, "A member of our mission, York University professor Dr. Bernie Frolic, will be giving lectures on human rights at Chinese universities during the trip." However, when a reporter mentioned on Monday that some consider Dr. Frolic an apologist for Chinese policy in Tibet, the Mayor said, "his lectures aren't part of our mission." http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/toronto/archive/2008/04/14/letter-from-city-hall-mayor-rediscovers-bay-street-side-in-beijing.aspx

Globe and Mail April 15, 2008, p. A11:
Under pressure from pro-Tibet activists before heading to China, Toronto Mayor David Miller made repeated statements that a York University professor in his delegation would be giving lectures on human rights.
But yesterday, speaking in Beijing, Mr. Miller appeared to reverse himself. He said the lectures by Bernie Frolic, a leading expert in Chinese politics, were not part of the trip.
"Professor Frolic, at a press conference in my office, announced that he would be lecturing about human rights while he was here," Mr. Miller said. "I can't speak for him. He announced it - I didn't."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Falling Out of My Chair: My Testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 17, 2008

I gave a statement and answered questions for 90 minutes

English language transcript: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3433712&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=39&Ses=2
et en français: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3433712&Language=F&Mode=1&Parl=39&Ses=2
A couple of my favourite parts extracted:

Mme Diane Bourgeois:
Vous avez dit qu'on avait des partenariats stratégiques. On n'a pas inclus le dialogue sur les droits humains dans ces partenariats stratégiques.

Est-ce là ce que vous êtes en train de dire?

M. Charles Burton:
Oui, c'est effectivement vrai.

Mme Diane Bourgeois:
Merci beaucoup.

Je viens de tomber de ma chaise!

. . .

The Chair:
Thank you.

I just want to let the committee know my intentions here. We were to go into our in camera draft document report now, but I think my intention is that we will continue with this for the time being. We have probably Canada's predominant expert on China-Canada relations here with us right now. I'll give everyone the opportunity to have a question. I know there are a few who still have questions.

Mr. Burton, do you have time to stay with us?

Dr. Charles Burton:
I would be happy to stay.

The Chair:
Wonderful. Thank you.

Comment by me: Not sure that my colleagues in the academy would agree with the "predominant expert on China-Canada relations" assessment, but I am honoured to be noted as such in Hansard all the same.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Statement to The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Affairs on The Rise Of China in the Global Economy

Statement by Charles Burton to The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Affairs on The Rise Of China in the Global Economy and Implications for Canadian Policy, April 9, 2008

China's increasing importance in the global economy is one aspect of what Chinese policymakers refer to as «China's comprehensive rise to power». China's economic rise is understood as part of an overall strategy whose goal is transform China into a great power politically in international relations and to promote China's cultural influence in the world.. So most Chinese in their Government and in the Chinese populace at large see China's economic rise as serving China's greater purposes in the political and cultural realms.

Chinese people in general have a strong sense of the past glories of their historical tradition and enormous nationalistic pride in the greatness of Chinese civilization and culture. They also have a long historical memory and understand that history in terms of flourishing past, a decline in China's relative position in the world in 19th century, and a very significant opportunity for China to rise to possibly global prodominance in this 21st century.

That is to say, that when Marco Polo wrote his famous account of his Travels in China in the 13th century, Marco Polo decribed a China that was superior to the West in well nigh every way. China in that period was a global leader in technology --- porcelains, fine silk fabrics, and a large number of things that the West did not have the ability to produce at the same level of technological sophistication, and in arts, culture, governance, and trade: the port at Quanzhou in Southern Fujian being characterized by Marco Polo as a more important centre for international commerce than even Egypt's great port of Alexandria in that era.

But in the 19th century, China had lagged well behind the subsequent remarkable remarkable rise of the Western nations in commerce and technology. By1840 China was forced to make humiliating concessions to the British including ceding Hong Kong to Britain as a colony after China badly lost a with Britain over the right of Britain to sell opium in China. Subsequently when word of China's weakness became known, other imperialist powers were able to force ceding of Chinese territory and other concessions. China had become to be characterized as «the sick man of Asia». From the Chinese cultural point of view Japan joining in this plunder was the greatest blow to Chinese national pride. Japan had traditionally been perceived in China as a subsidiary culture to China's in a «big brother-little brother» relationship. But by 1932 Japan was even able to sever the entire Manchurian region of northeast China off from a weak Republic of China to form a Japanese controlled puppet state called Manchukuo and of course Japan occupied most of the rest of China's territory under brutal rule in the 2nd World War.

In 1949, Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China with the words «The Chinese people have stood up!» China's new regime promised to redress the humiliations of the past inflicted on China by Western nations and the Japanese and restore China to greatness as what the Chinese refer to as a «modernized strong country»

After now 30 years of sustained high economic growth rates, China under the Chinese Communist Party regime is now a very important player in the world economy and a very importnat important factor in Canada's prosperity. I am very happy to see this Senate Committee investigating the implications of China's rise for Canadian policy. China's rise has very strong implications for the Canada and the entire world economic and political order in the years ahead, so it is incumbent on us to take it very seriously.

There is a school of thought popular among Chinese nationalists that sees China rising to a position of global predominance in years ahead. The argument goes that the United States is a declining power overextended in military adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere and has allowed itself to become mired in debilitating foreign debt, much it now held by China. As the U.S. grows weaker, a rising China can move to eventually supplant the U.S. in its rôle as the leading global superpower. China would thereby be able to use this strategic leverage to make Taiwan «return to the embrace of Motherland» as China puts it. This Chinese nationalist vision asserts that without the USA as a check on China's rise, China will be restored its rightful historical position as the pre-eminent global civilization. According to this view, the hegemony of the English-speaking peoples over the global affairs which has been in force for close to 200 years would come to an end and be replaced by a new Chinese global hegemony.

This sort of Chinese-dominated future is dependent on a number of factors that may not come to pass in years ahead, but I do think that regardless it is important to be aware of some concerns in China's continuing rise based on some things that we are observing now as China becomes more assertive in its bilateral relations and participation in global institutions such as the WTO and UN because China is a much more powerful nation than was the case even just a few years ago.

These concerns centre on China's sense of «global citizenship» in terms of China's willingness to follow the existing norms of international relations. This is to say that there are concerns about China's interpretation of its obligations to the United Nations human rights covenants that it has signed and its less than satisfactory rôle in the UN Human Rights Council and there are concerns that China is pushing the boundaries of the accepted consensus of the range of interpretation of the rules of the WTO in a number of areas including expectations of transparency and openess. China has also been reluctant to assume its share of responsibility to take action to address global environmental issues

I remain concerned that as China becomes a more powerful nation in the world that China may tend to impose its own interpretations of the terms of the important treaties and conventions that govern international relations in ways that would tend to serve Chinese interests more that the overall interests of the international community as a whole. Canada's prosperity, security and ability to stand for democracy and human rights as a universal good both domestically here in Canada and internationally could also be degraded by the rise of a China that does not come to internalize the values of global citizenship.

I therefore think that it is important that Canada devote more attention and resources to our relationship with China as a country that is important to Canada now and will almost certainly be much more important to Canada in years ahead. What we don't want is a powerful non-democratic strongly nationalistic China to attempt to impose non-democratic norms on the international order of an increasingly globalizing world into which Canada is more and more integrated. But a wealthy and powerful democratic China would be of benefit to to global prosperity, the environment we all share, and the cause of furthering international human rights.

So in conclusion I think that it is important that Canada continue to engage China bilaterally and multilaterally on ts international obligations to fulfil the terms of the UN Covenants and treaties it is pledged to uphold and to fulfil the terms of China's entry into the WTO. In this regard a future democratic China is strongly in the interests of both China and Canada.

Transcript of the Meeting can be found here

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Prime Minister's Comment on China at News Conference in Bucharest Today

I would continue to urge China to respect human rights and peaceful protest, not just in Tibet but everywhere.

And I would also encourage the government of China to understand that its growing wealth, its growing profile in the world and of course the profile of the Olympics will put a greater and greater spotlight on its record in this regard.

International concerns about China's handling of recent unrest in Tibet will only escalate if things don't change.

My strong advice would be to take these concerns seriously because I think they are likely to grow rather than diminish if we see a repetition of the current pattern.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tibetan Dancing at Olympic Torch Ceremony on Tian'anmen Square on March 31

I do not remember seeing any Tibetans doing any dancing when I visited Tibet some years ago. I have often seen Chinese variety shows with one act being Han Chinese young women dressed in cowboy hats with false long braids doing what is described in the program as "Chinese ethnic minority dance (Tibetan)". I am not sure how Tibetans regard this sort of performance. Are they pleased? Are they flattered?

I think that it is hard for PRC people to understand why Tibetans in Tibet or for that matter ethnic Chinese abroad and on Taiwan don't want to be part of the Great China rise projet. They think that all things being equal they should be just as enthusiastic about it as Chinese in China are supposed to be.