Monday, 6 June 2016

China's Soft Power Setback

China's Wang Yi with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Did China's foreign minister Wang Yi start the day on the wrong foot last week when he castigated a Canadian journalist in Ottawa for asking about human rights and the jailing of Canadian Kevin Garratt, who has been charged with espionage?

The Middle Kingdom's top diplomat lost his cool and started lecturing the reporter for almost two and a half minutes (including translation).

"Your question is full of prejudice and against China and arrogance... I don't know where that comes from. This is totally unacceptable," Wang said.

"Have you been to China? The Chinese constitution has written protection and promotion of human rights and China has pulled some 600 million people from poverty.

Kevin Garratt pictured with his wife, is charged with espionage
"Other people don't know better than the Chinese people about the human rights condition in China and it is the Chinese people who are in the best situation, the best position to have a say about China's human rights situation."

First of all, the foreign minister is on Canadian soil, so he must abide by the rules, which means upholding freedom of the press. Is he naive to think journalists in Canada will ask a softball question like they do in China?

Journalists in Canada can ask whatever they want, and apparently those covering the press conference agreed that asking about Garratt's situation was the most pressing one they wanted answered.

Wang could have just replied with a string of so-called facts for five minutes and then end the press conference. Why did he get so testy?

The foreign minister's rant revealed plenty about him and about China's irritation and insecurity about being asked about sensitive issues.

The reporter may or may not have been to China, but does that matter? She was asking the status on a Canadian in Chinese custody. What is wrong with that?

Wang lectures reporters about China during a press conference
China may have the second largest economy in the world, and yet it gets annoyed when people ask about its human rights situation.

When he says the Chinese are in the best position to comment about the country's human rights, he really is asking for it. Does he really think all 1.3 billion will sing the Chinese Communist Party's praises?

Some say Wang may have already been annoyed before the press conference, as the Trudeau administration had asked about the case. It was also revealed that Wang demanded an audience with the Canadian prime minister which is not the proper protocol.

In any event, Trudeau has expressed dissatisfaction to both Wang and the Chinese ambassador to Canada with the way the journalists were treated.

Perhaps Wang has forgotten there is a new administration in Canada, that has a different foreign policy from the previous Conservative one led by Stephen Harper.

I had hoped Trudeau would reach out to the Chinese government soon after he came to power, but it has taken almost eight months for the meeting to finally happen.

Trudeau will be lauded at home for keeping the heat on Wang, though there's going to be turbulent waters ahead in dealing with China...

1 comment:

  1. Q. "Wang could have just replied with a string of so-called facts for five minutes and then end the press conference. Why did he get so testy?"
    A. ?Because Mr. Wang is Foreign Minister of PRC. He is NOT "you", whatever that may, or may not be... Sorry to be rude, but...