Sunday, June 21, 2009

Comment on Chinese FM Visit to Ottawa

I am interested by the Canada-China Business Council's assertion that Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi is making a "sudden visit" to Canada and the CCBC's indication that the Government of China and not the Government of Canada has asked the CCBC to make arrangements for Mr. Yang in Canada:
"The Canadian business community has an unexpected but very welcome opportunity to stand behind our frequently-voiced and strongly-held beliefs that China is critical to our future. Following recent successful visits of Ministers Day and Cannon, China's Foreign Minister, YANG Jiechi, will make a sudden trip to Canada next week, and the Government of China has contacted us and requested an opportunity to connect with CCBC members over lunch on Tuesday, June 23, in Ottawa.
The foreign minister's invitation is a clear response to the business community's ongoing efforts and strong voice for renewal of the Canada-China relationship and the importance of close diplomatic relations at all levels to business success in China. The Canadian business community has this opportunity, despite very short notice, to demonstrate to the government of Canada and, of equal importance, to the government of China, our support for the efforts from both governments to accelerate a renewal of deep ties.
We are inviting the premiers who accompanied us on our visit to China last November, plus Canada's most senior political figures, and this letter is a call to action to Canada's most senior business leaders to be present and visible at this very important event. Our honorary chair, Mr. Andre Desmarais, will be present, and we expect excellent representation from Canada's senior executives.
We acknowledge that time is tight and schedules are busy, but please make every effort to attend this luncheon. It will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase your company's support for the re-energizing of the Canada-China relationship over the past few months."
An account of Mr. Yang's speech at the luncheon can be found here: and here: and here:

DFAIT's announcement of a photo opportunity with Mr. Cannon and Mr. Yang at 6:15pm on the 22nd prior to their scheduled bilateral meeting at the Pearson Building includes the observation:
"China is the world's fastest-growing major economy and is playing an increasingly important role on the global stage, making the Canada-China bilateral relationship more important than ever." I very much endorse this notion.

Nevertheless, Mr. Cannon has indicated that he is not willing to resume a government to government "bilateral human rights dialogue" with China as such. This could be causing tension with the Government of China as other nations may follow Canada's lead and refuse to participate in this format of engagement with the Chinese authorities on human rights. This would be on the basis that after more than 10 years of dialoguing this format of engagement has proven to be ineffective in promoting social justice in China. This is quite strongly supported by China's flat rejection (as articulated quite bluntly by the Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong) of most of the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council following the HRC review of China's human rights record earlier this year.

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