Trudeau coaches kids' basketball game in China vs. ex-NBA star Yao Ming

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau guest-coached a kids' basketball game in China today against a team guided by towering ex-NBA star Yao Ming.

Trudeau flies to Hangzhou Saturday to sit down with Alibaba founder Jack Ma

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches the Toronto Raptors mascot dance. Trudeau is in Shanghai as part of his week-long official visit to the Asian country. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

With the higher-stakes political discussions behind him, Justin Trudeau's week-long mission to foster Canadian-Chinese relations adopted a lighter tone Friday.

Early in the week, the prime minister talked trade and investment in Beijing with the most-powerful men in the Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping.

Trudeau also used a speech Thursday night in Shanghai to call on China to do more to promote and protect human rights. In the address, he preached to the economic superpower on the value of good governance and free expression.

On Friday, Trudeau's effort to connect with the Chinese had moved into a far different phase.

It included high fives at a kids' basketball game, smoked meat and his on-stage performance of a yoga and tai chi-like dance in front of a crowd.

Guest coach against Yao Ming

Unlike his earlier appearances this week in China, Trudeau had abandoned his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He seemed to be more at ease.

Outside a Shanghai high school, Trudeau barked instructions from courtside as guest coach of a team. His squad, called the Raptors, faced an opponent coached by former National Basketball Association star Yao Ming.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to throw the ball for the jump ball to start a basketball game at the Nanyang Model Private High school. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

"It's important to take a stand on issues that matter to you," Trudeau, a former teacher, told hundreds of cheering kids who crowded around the court before the friendly game.

"It's important to step up and look for your voice to be able to have an impact in shaping the world around you, in shaping your community, in shaping your future."

The game took place at a high school where British Columbia-certified teachers teach all courses between grades 10 and 12 in English.

A slice of Montreal

After the game, he made an election-campaign-like stop by sweeping into a busy local restaurant that specializes in Montreal-style smoked meat and is run by a Montrealer.

Inside, he moved through the restaurant chatting with customers. He even asked the owner what type of mustard is appropriate on a smoked-meat sandwich.

In the afternoon, Trudeau spoke at a Shanghai event hosted by Canadian insurance firm Manulife, which has had a presence in China since 1897. At the event, the company launched a program that rewards physically active customers with a free wearable fitness device and one year of free coverage.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Montreal native and restaurant owner Brian Tock watch a smoked sandwich being made during a visit to a smoked meat restaurant in Shanghai. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

After his speech, the smiling prime minister was joined on the stage by several people in a slow-moving dance that combined the Chinese art of tai chi with yoga.

"I'm here in China this week to talk about all of the great partnerships that we're working on, and that are going to happen between Canada and China," Trudeau said in the short speech.

Earlier Thursday in Shanghai, Trudeau met Cirque du Soleil chief executive Daniel Lamarre and Fosun International chairman Guo Guangchang.

The prime minister also met with a group of women entrepreneurs.

He told them he believes that the strength of any society depends on the full participation of all its citizens — and that especially includes women.

On Saturday, Trudeau will fly to Hangzhou, where he will meet with Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba. The prime minister will also attend the G20 leaders' summit in Hangzhou.

Once there, he's scheduled to hold a news conference — only the second time so far on this trip that the generally media-friendly Trudeau has taken any questions from journalists.