PM Harper brings Canadian politics to China

He spent his first years in office with an unapologetically hard line on China's transgressions from Tibet to human rights. Now Prime Minister Harper is negotiating a bottom line with an official visit to China, dominated by the business interests and needs of both countries. Today, we're looking at how the Prime Minister has reframed Canada's approach to a nation that becomes more powerful and more in need with every passing year.

Part One of The Current


t's Tuesday, February 7th.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to address China about its position on Syria.

Currently, Harper will pretend to lecture, and China will pretend to listen.

This is The Current.

PM Harper brings Canadian politics to China

We started this segment with Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking with reporters in November of 2006. It was just a couple months after his government presented honorary citizenship to Tibet's leader-in-exile, the Dalai Lama. Even by 2008, Mr. Harper wasn't ready to play along with Beijing when it hosted the Summer Olympics. Beijing welcomed Mr. Harper during his first official visit in December 2009. But it was a frosty welcome.

The Prime Minister is back in China. He arrived this morning and he'll meet with business leaders and promote Canada's energy sector. He especially wants to push a plan to export bitumen from the oil sands to China, since the Keystone pipeline to the U.S. is on hold. Human rights issues are also supposed to be on the agenda, but these days, it seems Mr. Harper is almost all business with China. Which has a lot of people wondering .... Has the Almighty Dollar finally won out?

To discuss that question we were joined by two guests. Jan Wong is a veteran journalist who spent six years covering Beijing as a foreign correspondent. She is a professor of journalism at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. Her new memoir, Out Of The Blue will be published in May. She was in Fredericton. And Wenran Jiang is professor of political science and former director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta. He was in Edmonton.

With the emphasis now on trade and not human rights, some say the Prime Minister has sure changed his tune on China. We aired a version of our national anthem to consider.

This half-hour was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.

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