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A new step in restoring Sino-Canadian relations

June 24, 2010

Chinese president in Ottawa Hu's visit expected
to improve ties, but not entirely heal rift caused by Harper
The Montreal Gazette
Canwest News Service
June 23, 2010

  Chinese President Hu Jintao's official visit to
Ottawa today is seen here as the next step -but
not necessarily the final one -in restoring
normalcy to Sino-Canadian relations.

Hu's visit "will improve the political
relations," but not completely heal the rift
caused by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's
outspoken criticism of China's human rights
record and his official meeting with the Dalai
Lama, Jin Canrong, a professor at Beijing's
Renmin University's School of International Studies, said in an interview.

"Stephen Harper's visit (to China) last year made
some progress, but it wasn't substantial. Both
sides still hold their original views," he said.

Categorizing the current relations as still
"relatively cold," Jin predicted: "President Hu
Jintao's visit will make the Chinese government
attach more importance to Sino-Canada relations
and exchanges between the two governments will
warm up, striking a balance with the economic relations."

Hu, 67, a veteran world traveller, pointedly
hasn't been to Canada since 2005. His absence
might have been prolonged further but for the
coincidence of the G20 meeting in Toronto later this week.

Hu's biographer, journalist and professor Willy
Wo-Lap Lam, thinks the official visit should set
things right between Canada and its second largest trading partner.

"I think the Hu leadership will 'normalize' ties
with Canada, if there are no more
'embarrassments,' such as the Dalai Lama visiting
Ottawa -and being highly received -again," he said in an interview by email.

Lam characterized Hu as "China's foreign policy
president, because of the tremendous strides that
China has made in enhancing its global clout."

He pointed out that while Hu stands
shoulder-to-shoulder with the Chinese Communist
Party leadership's tough stance on human rights
and Tibet, his portfolios in the Politburo Bureau
are the standing committees on diplomacy and military affairs.

"He lets (Premier) Wen Jiabao and other
colleagues handle the tough domestic
socioeconomic woes such as the growing rich-poor
gap, the 100,000 'mass incidents' every year,"
Lam said, referring to the street protests, riots
and strikes that occur in China.

Hu's very much part of the consensus when the
government takes iron-fisted stands on Tibet, the
restive Uyghur region of Xinjiang, Taiwan and
Hong Kong, Lam said, but "it is not Hu in
particular pushing for extra tough policy on the Dalai Lama or Xinjiang."

Both Jin and Lam see Hu's primary interest in
Canada at this point as energy -oil and gas -a
sector where its recent investments in projects
has been substantial. But Jin thinks the Chinese
leader will also be taking a look at the strides
Canada has made developing its "soft power."

As its economic clout soars so far ahead of its
political weight in the world, China professes to
be aiming for "peaceful development
internationally," and says it wants to pursue
"soft power" initiatives to strengthen its global presence.
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