The Hot Zone
China's newly announced air defense identification zone over the East China Sea aims to shore up national security
Current Issue
· Table of Contents
· Editor's Desk
· Previous Issues
· Subscribe to Mag
Subscribe Now >>
Expert's View
Market Watch
North American Report
Government Documents
Expat's Eye
Photo Gallery
Reader's Service
Learning with
'Beijing Review'
E-mail us
RSS Feeds
PDF Edition
Reader's Letters
Make Beijing Review your homepage
Hot Links

cheap eyeglasses
Market Avenue

Top Story
Top Story
UPDATED: July 7, 2009 NO.27 JULY 9, 2009
Back on Track
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi's visit to Canada bodes well for improved China-Canada relations

OPTIMISM EXPRESSED: Canadian Prime Minister Harper meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the prime minister's office in Ottawa on June 23 (YANG SHILONG)

A hastily arranged visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to Canada has strengthened the recent momentum toward an improvement in strained Sino-Canadian relations, but longer-term prospects remain murky.


Yang had been scheduled to attend a special United Nations conference in New York on the international economic crisis when he was invited to make a stopover on June 21-23 in the Canadian capital, where he held talks with Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition leader Michael Ignatieff and delivered a speech at a luncheon sponsored by the Canada-China Business Council.

The speech venue was significant because the Canadian business community has been particularly unhappy about the deterioration in Canada's relations with China since Harper became prime minister in early 2006. According to press reports, Council President Peter Harder sent out an "urgent" request to business leaders to attend Yang's speech, calling it a "call to action" and "a wonderful opportunity to showcase your company's support for the re-energizing of the Canada-China relationship."

Yang himself was diplomatic. Referring to the tensions that have sprung up between Ottawa and Beijing under Harper's Conservative regime, Yang said, "We should not let these differences stand in the way of our relations... As an old Chinese saying goes, 'Harmony makes us close to each other and differences make us respect each other.'"

"We need courage, we need vision, and I'm here to learn from you, dear friends from Canada," Yang said. "I'm also here to say to you that we cherish this relationship."

Big steps

Mutual respect had not been evident in Harper's earlier comments about China. He and some of his key ministers went out of their way to criticize Beijing on issues ranging from human rights and Tibet to the status of Taiwan. Most notably, in the fall of 2006 Harper rejected criticism that his tough talk was damaging the relationship, "I think Canadians want us to promote our trade relations worldwide, and we do that. But I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values. They don't want us to sell that out to the almighty dollar."

He was altogether warmer during his meeting with Yang, which was held in the prime minister's office, an honor usually reserved for heads of state or government. He urged Yang to convey his regards to President Hu Jintao and expressed optimism about the future of bilateral relations. "Your visit here is very useful; we really appreciate it," he said.

Harper, who pointedly did not attend the Beijing Olympics, is now expected to visit China in November, when he will be in Asia to attend the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in Singapore. Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party and a strong supporter of warmer Sino-Canadian ties, has announced that he will visit Beijing in September.

The sudden thaw follows intense diplomatic activity on both sides. Cannon visited China in May and met with Yang and Vice President Xi Jinping. That came on the heels of an April visit by Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day, who in the past had been a vocal critic of China. Speaking to reporters after concluding his visit, Day seemed to have changed his priorities, "When you look globally at any given time, we may have rights issues that we raise with other countries. At the same time, it doesn't mean you tell your businesspeople they can't sell their products in that country; it doesn't mean you tell your businesspeople they can't sell their services or technologies in that country."

Those high-level ministerial visits coincided with the naming of David Mulroney as the new Canadian ambassador to Beijing. He is something of an old China hand, having been Canada's consul general in Shanghai from 1985 to 1988 and later serving as executive director of the Canada-China Business Council.

On the Chinese side, former Ambassador Mei Ping revealed that he worked a "secondary channel" for several months by meeting with Canadian business groups, media outlets, think tanks and politicians to promote improved relations.

Welcome change

In Canada, the immediate reaction to the thaw has generally been positive. Former Prime Minister Joe Clark, who had been critical of Harper's hard-line China policy, noted that Canada had traditionally displayed a "deep bipartisan commitment to good relations."

"That changed for reasons that I can't explain with the present government," he said after Yang's speech. "And I think that what is happening now indicates there has been some real attention paid at very high levels in the government to advice that it would do well to respect the Canada-China tradition. I think there's been a rethink."

1   2   Next  

Top Story
-Protecting Ocean Rights
-Partners in Defense
-Fighting HIV+'s Stigma
-HIV: Privacy VS. Protection
-Setting the Tone
Related Stories
-Canadian Cold Front
-New Chapter in Sino-Canadian Trade Story
Most Popular
About BEIJINGREVIEW | About beijingreview.com | Rss Feeds | Contact us | Advertising | Subscribe & Service | Make Beijing Review your homepage
Copyright Beijing Review All right reserved