TIAN Hui, Special Correspondent, Shanghai Morning Post (filed from Ottawa, June 22)
[NOTE BY ME: most of the quotations from me and some of the facts given in this report are not accurate reflections of what I said in the interview. The original Chinese version can be found at: http://www.jfdaily.com/a/1186754.htm]
Focus on the G20 Summit
He speaks Chinese as fluently as Dashan. He was a student in the Class of '77 in the Philosophy Department at Fudan University. Formerly Counsellor for Cultural Affairs at the Canadian Embassy to China, he has been dedicated to the study of China for over 30 years. No matter from what perspective, this former Canadian diplomat and professor of Political Science at Brock University is one of the most authoritative spokesmen for interpreting Canada-China relations.
On the eve of President Hu Jintao's visit to Canada and attendance at the Group of 20 leaders' summit, this Shanghai Morning Post special correspondent engaged in an exclusive interview with Professor Charles Burton on a series of topics including Canada-China relations and the Group of 20 heads of government summit.
China's national competitiveness ranks 9th among the G20Last April the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences issued its 2010 Chinese Urban Competitiveness Blue Book: Report on Chinese Urban Competitiveness. The main theme of the Report is an analysis of the the relative levels of competitiveness of China and the G20 nations. In 2008 China's national competitiveness was ranked 9th among of the G20 nations. This is the same ranking for China as in 2004. But taking into account the rapid increase in the index, the discrepancy with the developed nations has been continuously shrinking.
Although the Group of 20 dialogue mechanism has been established for more than a decade, it has only been really under the spotlight since the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008. Because of the unique position of the U.S. and China in this financial crisis, China's voice and actions have drawn particular attention.
Charles Burton on Political RelationsCanada-China Relations Have Switched into the Fast Lane
"Chinese President Hu Jintao's coming to Canada on a state visit is an expression of both Canada and China placing more importance on the bilateral relationship." Charles Burton indicated that President Hu Jintao's visit to Canada symbolizes Canada-China relations again switching into the fast lane.
Burton said that when the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited China at the end of last year he had an interesting exchange with Premier Wen Jiabao. Wen Jiabao said that it had been five years since a Prime Minister of Canada had visited China. Mr, Harper responded that it had also been about five years since a Chinese leader had visited Canada. Charles Burton said: "Only half a year after this exchange. the President of China is about to visit Canada. This will mean that there has been an exchange of visits at the highest levels of the Canadian and Chinese Governments. This makes it evident that the leaders of our two nations have resolved to push the Canada-China bilateral relationship to rapid forward development."
Charles Burton told this reporter, of all the foreign leaders attending the G20 meeting only President Hu Jintao will be making a state visit at the same time. "Actually just after President Hu Jintao completes his state visit to Canada, the Governor-General of Canada, Michaele Jean will make an official visit to China at the end of June until the beginning of July. This series of exchanges at the highest levels shows that there are genuine measures being undertaken by both China and Canada to push forward the development of the bilateral relationship."
With regard to the stagnant nature of Canada-China relations of the past few years, Burton feels that this is largely related to Canadian domestic politics. When Mr. Harper first became Prime Minister, he lacked experience of governing and the Conservative Party only had a minority of the seats in Parliament. So he had to put most of his focus on domestic political affairs and therefore had to reduce attention paid to foreign affairs. He was not only obliged to neglect relations with China, he was also unable to visit other nations with newly emerging economies such as Russia, Brazil and India. But now after the election of last year, the Conservative Party has a more stable position in Parliament. So Mr. Harper can put more attention to international matters. He has gone abroad a number of times recently and also assumed responsibility for holding international meetings such as the G8 and G20 Summits. This demonstrates that Mr. Harper can now be more practive in giving full play to his political aspirations.Charles Burton on Trade and Economic Relations
Choosing Cooperation with China is a Wise ChoiceWith regard to Canada and China's trade and economic relationship, Burton indicated that the future prospects for interaction between Canada and China in trade and economic areas are exceptionally good. He said: "Canada and Australia are both among the seven most developed western nations. The scale of their economies is about the same. But China and Australia have bilateral trade that amounted to 60 billion US dollars in 2009, while China and Canada's bilateral trade amounts to only 30 billion US dollars." "Although trade and economic relations between Canada and China have developed well over the years, compared to the overall economic strength of the two nations and the potential for economic cooperation, the scale of bilateral trade and investment remains small. In particular the quite large trade deficit between Canada and China, presently 1:4 is something that the Canadian Government and commercial sector very much hope to change. It is said that that President Hu Jintao will bring an enormous Chinese trade delegation with him on this visit. This shows that Canada and China both have started to adopt strong measures to change this situation."
With regard to the causes of the current imbalance in Canada-China trade Charles Burton feels that there a number of factors to take into consideration. First is that Canada at the national level does not have a unified institution to promote overseas trade. Canada has the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian Commmercial Corporation, and the Export Development Bureau. But these institutions are not sufficiently coordinated and so cannot operate with the integrated strength of an integrated trade promotion body. Second is that Canadian companies, especially small and medium sized enterprises, have some reservations about investing in China. For example they are concerned about protection of their intellectual property rights and the issue of foreign investment protection in China and the currency exchange rate issue, etc. This is not to say that China has not been making efforts in these areas, but that Canada has strict regulation of these matter. So major Canadian coriporations hope that they can receive the same treatment in China as China corporations receive in Canada. Canada strictly protects investments from foreign sources.
Burton said in fact starting last year, Canada and China have gradually started work to progressively raise the level of their commercial cooperation. "Canada has set up new trade offices in six Chinese cities, and the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the President of the Central Bank have visited China and have begun dialogue with the Government of China and commerical personages in China. This shows that Canada has realized that against the background of the current international financial crisis strengthening cooperation with China is a wise choice."
Charles Burton on the G20 SummitChina's voice is paid exceptional attention
On being asked about the role played by China at the G20 heads of governments meeting, Burton indicated that he is full of expectations. "Because of the unique position of the U.S. and China in this financial crisis, China's voice and actions have drawn particular attention."
Burton said:"This meeting of the heads of government of the G20 in Toronto will have an enduring impact. It is a result of the Pittsburgh Summit of last September and will set the tone for for summit in Seoul, Korea set for November of this year. It is first summit since the reinstitutionalization of the G20 Summit. Prime Minister Harper set the theme of this Summit as 'Recovery and New Beginnings.' This makes clear that hopes that through this Summit a summary statement can be concluded on the series of measures taken over the past two years to salvage the international financial system from crisis, and at the same time seek the direction of future efforts in this regard."
Charles Burton indicated that at the Toronto Summit the U.S. and China have a very critical role to play. Whether in implementing the Pittsburgh Summit's pledge to bring about "strong, sustainable and balanced growth mechanisms" or in discussing the current European sovereign debt crisis, China and the U.S. are both the most important voices. Especially China's as the world's third largest economy and the largest holder of U.S. debt. People should be full of expectations for the role that China plays."
"I personally am particularly keen to see how China responds with regard to currency, especially foreign exchange policy. Although the Government of China has indicated that he G20 Summit is not a suitable venue to discuss the RMB yuan exchange rate policy, but I believe that this question to a lesser or greater extent will be raised at the Toronto Summit," Burton said.[People in the News]
Magazines got me interested in China
Charles Burton is a professor in the Political Science Department at Brock University and formerly Counsellor for Cultural Affairs at the Canadian Embassy to China.
Burton told this reporter that he has been connected with China for more than 40 years. His first contact with China came in his youth. "At that time China was still in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. I found a book shop on the route between my home and school. It has a lot of books and magazines from China. For example Peking Review, China Pictorial, etc and even Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung."
"I found it quite fascinating and got quite excited by it, because it was all so mysterious. And more importantly these books and magazines were very inexpensive. I could afford to buy them. Through these books and magazines I became entranced by China and the Chinese language. After I graduated from university, I went to the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Cambridge University to formally study Chinese."
"Later Prime Minister Trudeau visited China. I ws selected as one of the ten Canadian young people to be sent to China for further studies of Chinese. I studied under Professor Yan Beiming in the Philosophy Department at Fudan University.
Due to his familiarity with Chinese history and culture words like "three classes before the Cultural Revolution" "Worker, Peasant. Soldier University Student" tumble out of Burton's mouth. He told this reporter that he was in the first university class after the end of the Cultural Revolution. His classmates at Fudan were from the "three classes before the Cultural Revolution" and he was the youngest among them. Many of the classmates are now already grandfathers.Charles Burton also told this reporter that while he was studying in China he also acted in a film, "The Second Handshake." The Director gave me 50 yuan for my efforts. In the China of 1980, this was a considerable sum."