Meetings between national leaders tend to be stiff, decorous affairs. When something interesting or unusual happens, everyone acts surprised.
This explains the front-page ink spilled over the supposed "rebuke" served up by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao when he crankily told Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he should visit China more often. "This is your first visit to China and this is the first meeting between the Chinese premier and a Canadian prime minister in almost five years," he declared. "[That] is too long a time for China-Canada relations, and that's why there are comments in the media that your visit is one that should have taken place earlier."
As I see it, Mr. Wen's crankiness is his problem, not ours. But opposition politicians and pundits have taken China's side, sensing in it a chance to skewer the Harper government. Michael Ignatieff, for instance, offered this snippet of cocktail-party anthropology: "[Harper] lost face today. And in that culture, losing face is very important."
How, exactly, did our Prime Minister "lose face"�? China is a brutal one-party dictatorship that throws its citizens into Soviet-style labour camps for the crime of believing in the wrong religion. Should we really be working ourselves into a collective froth over what the Premier of such a country mutters about our diplomatic protocols?
To put this episode in context, let's go back a few years "” to the "rebuke"�-riddled election year of 2004.
Every time Paul Martin met with George W. Bush, readers will recall, his body language was carefully analyzed by the Toronto media to ensure he wasn't getting "too close"� to the Evil Empire. In the English-language election debate, a third of the time was devoted to Canadian-American relations, with party leaders debating about how bad-ass they would be in confronting Uncle Sam. Jack Layton accused both Messrs. Martin and Harper of seeking to "make Canada into the 51st state."� As for Paul Martin, he accused Mr. Harper of being an "American in Canadian clothing."� The next year, for good measure, he personally insulted the United States from the podium at a climate-change conference attended by U.S. officials. Far from being scandalous, these "rebukes"� were then seen as the preferred method of Canadian diplomacy.
Thankfully, this standoffish attitude ended when Stephen Harper came to power. But it is worth remembering for what it says about the small-l liberal political and media establishment in this country, which has, since the Trudeau era, fetishized peevish anti-Americanism as a sign of national muscularity. Why is this same establishment staging a full-blown meltdown now that we are getting a tut-tutting from some autocrat whose name most Canadians don't even know? Is it more important that we suck up to a communist dictatorship to which we export $10-billion worth of goods every year than that it is to maintain good relations with our democratic neighbour to the south, to which we export more than 30 times as much?
But then, this story really has nothing to do with trade, or even diplomacy. After all, if China wants our oil or lumber, they'll buy it "” regardless of how many Canadian politicians visit Beijing, and how often they do so. Rather, the story is about political fashion.
A few years ago, pundits in Canada and other Western nations decided that China was the shiny, new story of the 21st century. So what if the country also happened to persecute dissidents, torture Falun Gong members, and censor the internet. To mention such things in the context of trade talks, diplomatic confabs, or the Beijing Olympics was considered outré "” like asking for a fork at a hip new Asian fusion restaurant. Our main obsession, we've told ourselves, should be getting this shiny new country to notice us, like us, buy from us.
This explain why many journalists' first-blush response to the Chinese Premier's comments was to immediately take his side "” as if it truly were some kind of scandal that we haven't gone to kiss his ring in a few years, even though (as Mr. Harper pointed out) no Chinese leader has visited Canada during the same five-year period: The Chinese have apparently become so important that we are expected to go visit them. On Friday, for instance, the Globe & Mail fronted with an article titled "The Rebuke,"� under which the editors lamented "the damage done to a vital relationship that was carefully nurtured by past prime ministers."�
It's quite pathetic that Canadians should have internalized this conceit. One may even say the whole episode has made us lose face. And in our culture, as readers know, that is very important.
Somehow, I don't think it's Chinese rings that the Liberals think we should be kissing. Those of us with the memory of a gnat can recall how the Liberals treated China's human rights problems.
The Liberals think that statesmanship consists in sucking up to any leftist dictatorship they can find while insulting the Americans at every opportunity.
So what if some puffed up midget dictator has the bad manners to insult his guests ?
Says more about his insecurity that he has to play 'The Big Angry Guy'.
He says ' We are an improtant super power. We kill our criminals to harvest their organs, we run down our dissenters using our tanks and we desperately want to buy your resources. Visit more often or else..., err, we may just find some other patsy. Now get down and kiss my ass'
Petty twerp. Better to sell our stuff to the curry boys, much more peaceful people and in the long run more successful.
We all know what Stephen Harper was kissing and it wasn't rings. I guess it's a long drop from that "Almighty Dollar" perch of just a couple of years ago.
Was it really a rebuke? Or just dry humor? Harper answered back 'You haven't visited in 5 years either'.
It looks like this was puffed up by the left-wing press and the NDP types like Bob Rae (has he really changed?) and Whatsisname - the guy with the gay mustache...and the other guy who talks about 'losing face' - meanwhile, his face is so far lost it's on the floor after trying to overthrow the government twice and then supporting it.
Thank you for pointing out the logical fallacy of the "trade first" crowd in the Liberal Party. We must not provoke China but its OK to badmouth the Americans (Canada's number one trading partner) at every turn.
That speech that Martin made in 2004 Montreal represented the absolute height of the breathtaking
hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of the Liberals. The PM proceeded to lecture the United States about their failure to act on emissions and address climate change when he knew full well that Canada emissions had climbed twice as much during the same period.
Yet I dont remember any environmental organizations branding Martin and the Liberals "climate criminals" etc.
I wonder why that is.
My favorite point was about how the Chinese have not come to visit us. Why is it we must visit them first? Did Harper visit the USA before Obama came here? Communist China sucks @$$ and they should come here and kiss ours if they want us to buy their cr@p, or sell them the resources they need from us. If we payed 20% more for our trinkets we could make them here and tell China to go pound sand. It could revitalize the manufacturing industry here and keep our money in our country. We don't need anything thing from China, but they need resources from us. China is just a cheep off shore labor force for greedy corporations. We should ban outsourcing and off shore manufacturing. If you are a Canadian Manufacturer you should have to design, build, assemble and provide support for products in Canada. If you are just an importer, then you can buy Chinese cr@p as long as it is not sold as a Canadian product. I would gladly pay even twice as much for trinkets if they were entirely produced in Canada.
It is good that Harper went to China, it is a Politically Correct thing to do, but I hope he hands the Chinese a steaming hot $#!t sandwich if they ever come here, after how they treated him there.
Please don't ask me to tell you what I really think, this is a public forum.