There is an item in the press this morning quoting some remarks made by former Prime Minister Chretien in Paris today. It sumarizes his comments as follows: "Canadian goodwill towards China began with Pierre Elliott Trudeau's recognition of Beijing, and grew to the point where he was once told by a Chinese leader that Canada was China's best friend."
I was present at a dinner in Beijing in the autumn of 1998 when the Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji abandoned his prepared remarks and said that "Canada is our best friend" (Jiananda shi women zuihaode pengyou). Mr. Zhu was sitted at the head table between Mr. Chretien and Mr. Chretien's son-in-law, Andre Desmarais whose Power Corporation has extensive business interests in China, at the time.
Of course I am a proponent of "goodwill" in all things. But I am of the school of thought that Canada only has interests in its international relations, "friendship" not properly entering into it.
October 21: Lorne Gunter published an opinion piece "The 'soft power' myth" in the National Post today that I agree with on this point and on others: http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/columnists/story.html?id=47249cbb-70d3-4ad3-99f5-3ba5a2c4e9e0 or here.