Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Trade Minister Stockwell Day's Comments on My Report

On reflection I feel badly that DFAIT briefed Stockwell Day in a way that gave him a misimpression of the Chinese language abilities of our diplomats in Beijing. There is some degree of linguistic fraud being perpetuated here. I would really urge that DFAIT use the standardized test the "Chinese Proficiency Test" to measure Chinese language competence in future. China would not send diplomats to Canada unable to read English or French.

1 comment:

Warmond Fang said...

Professor Burton i will have to say that your analysis of the situation is spot on and it has been an even more deteriorating trend since I arrived in China in 2005. My brother who works as the marketing manager for the Canadian-Chinese Business Council and has extensive dealings with the embassy as well as AUSCHAM the Australian Chamber of Commerce noted a long time ago about the dismal presence of Canada in China in comparison to countries like the UK, Australia, France and even Switzerland. The focus of French as a pre-requisite to the entry of the foreign service continues to hinder the development of mandarin language skills and DFAIT definitely needs to have a renewed focus in that regard.

It's a rather sad affair given the positive soft power Canada had with China with links through Norman Bethune who served with the 8 Route Army in the Anti-Japanese War of Aggression; Pierre Trudeau who was the first to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC even before Nixon's visit in 1971; our assistance with wheat sales in the 1960's and the strong presence of overseas Chinese in Canada gave us all the advantages in developing a strong Chinese relationship. The problem as identified is Canada is conservative and complacent to rely on our friendly superpower neighbour the US. Australia has no such advantage in the Asian-Pacific so China for them is in essence our US and they have capitalized well.

Indeed for anyone who's been on the ground in China, will notice, Canada has very little presence and the only thing the Chinese can still say is that "Norman Bethune" was a real "hero".

I am glad that you made your views clear in the the Toronto Star because I don't think people in Canada actually know what the China-Canada relationship is all about and quite frankly, most probably don't care and raising the issues is a good start at highlighting where Canada is losing its niche in the International Arena as a middle power.