Speech at Fudan University - Shanghai

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Speech at Fudan University

Shanglai, Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I would like to begin by expressing my sympathies, on behalf of all Canadians, to the families of the victims who were buried under the terrible mudslide that affected thousands of people in the Guizhou province and forced the displacement of millions more.

We are following this difficult time in China very closely and we are not indifferent to your suffering. Rest assured that we are with you in solidarity.

Polyglot that I am, I would have loved to speak to you today in Chinese. But some dreams do not come true, and this is one of them. So instead I will alternate between English and French, Canada’s two official languages. But I can at least offer you a hearty hello: Ni-How!

As Governor General of Canada, I am deeply honoured and delighted to kick off my visit to the People’s Republic of China by addressing the students and faculty of one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

I believe that our societies’ progress is inextricably linked to the development of these places of learning, for they seek solutions to the issues of the day and ways to enhance our collective well-being, develop new techniques, encourage the flow of ideas and, in keeping with the name and venerable history of your institution, shine the light of knowledge—and friendship, I might add—on our daily lives.

I am especially pleased by the timing of our meeting, since it comes on the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China.

It was in 1968 that Canada announced its historic intention to officially recognize the People’s Republic of China.

And so it was that two years later—October 13, 1970, to be exact—Canada was one of the first Western democracies to establish diplomatic ties with your great country. Over the years, our populations have continued to strengthen these ties.

Canada considers China a friend and a strategic partner, one whose importance we never fail to recognize and promote within the international community.

What we have accomplished together in 40 years is remarkable and a source of pride for Canadians. I said this just a few days ago to President Hu Jintao, whom I had the pleasure of welcoming to Rideau Hall, which serves as both the home and workplace of the Governor General in Ottawa, our nation’s capital.

Of course, there were ties between our two countries long before 1970, as evidenced by two 20th century examples of solidarity that both our peoples hold dear.

There was Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon seen as a hero by President Mao. Dr. Bethune worked tirelessly to tend to the scores of injured.

And there was the time in 1961, in the middle of the Cold War, when Canada sent grain to the Chinese people, who were suffering from a devastating famine.

At that time, it was also Canada that unconditionally supported your request to join the United Nations, leading a procession of thirty countries that followed our example and exchanged ambassadors with China, according to what was then known as the “Canadian method.”

It is this type of solidarity that has allowed our peoples over the years to lay the foundation of a cherished, prolific friendship.

Today, China is our second largest trading partner and the third largest recipient of Canadian exportations.

Moreover, China is Asia-Pacific’s leading investor in Canada.

To mark the anniversary of our relations and to boost our presence in China, Canada has opened six new trade offices to assist Canadian companies in Shenyang, Qingdao, Nanjing, Wuhan, Chengdu and Shenzen. This should stimulate our countries’ partnership even further.

In addition, Sino-Canadian research initiatives in science and technology are enabling us to explore new opportunities for innovation, which offer the promise of greater prosperity in such key areas as biotechnology, energy and the environment, agri-business, and telecommunications.

In an increasingly complex world, it is important that we look to the future and therefore consider how we envision the next 40 years of our friendship.

What are the best areas in which we can strategically strengthen and diversify our ties? We have already begun our reflection, the foundations are solid and the mechanisms for collaboration are already in place.

But the exercise is important.

Because the world we live in requires us to cooperate more than ever before to find common solutions to the problems affecting the planet as a whole.

As Shanghai-born Canadian author Ying Chen wrote so aptly and touchingly, “each of us is a small stream that empties into the sea, where it joins all of humanity.”

While we need to continue rethinking the world together, we must also give ourselves the means to understand it and shape its future, such that thought and action combine and help shape a consciousness that encompasses the full breadth of human experience, wherever that consciousness takes root.

In this regard, Sino-Canadian cooperation is a promising model that we must nourish through continued high-level dialogue in sectors that are key for our societies and, let us be honest, the future of humanity, the humanization of humanity, such as governance, human rights, the state of law, public administration, the environment and sustainable development, health, multilateral cooperation, peace and security, climate change, and academic and cultural exchanges.

The December 2009 visit to China by Canada’s Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, confirmed a desire on both sides for increased cooperation.

And that is why Canada is delighted to have been granted Approved Destination status by China. This will go a long way toward facilitating contacts and exchanges between our peoples. We need to be more deeply connected.

And I can think of no better place to say how pleased I am that more than 42,000 Chinese students attend Canadian schools. But this should go both ways, because—in my opinion—such encounters represent a path to the future, as evidenced by the research projects and academic programs carried out between institutions like yours and Canadian universities.

It is worth noting that Chinese is the third most spoken language in Canada, behind English and French, which—as I indicated earlier—are our two official languages, and that our country boasts more than one million Canadians of Chinese origin, making them the largest non-European ethnic group in Canada.

I would also add that China has helped build today’s Canada, a Canada we consider inclusive, a Canada we are very proud of.

Throughout most of the 19th century, the first Chinese immigrants worked extremely hard, under conditions that were often difficult—unacceptable, even. A captive source of cheap labour and an easy target for deep-seated prejudices, they were put to work building the railway that connected Canada from east to west.

In 2006, Canada made amends and publicly acknowledged the deplorable treatment these workers and their families received. Official apologies were also extended to survivors and descendants, and reparations were made.

The contributions made by our fellow citizens of Chinese origin are immense and affect every aspect of our joint success, and they are celebrated by Canadians from coast to coast to coast across our great country.

Canada’s strength lies in our ability to learn and grow from our mistakes. Because we are not infallible, we Canadians constantly question and seek to improve the way in which we live together, the way we want to achieve together and the way we plan on growing together.

To that end, we have put in place several instruments like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which allow us to fight exclusion, injustice and inequity more effectively.

For us, this Charter is the founding text of our modernity, as it proclaims, loud and clear, our shared hopes for peace and for social harmony and stability.

Our strength as a nation is also deeply connected to a vibrant, innovative, creative and dynamic civil society that includes the cultural sectors, citizens and other non-governmental organizations, which constantly enhance our efforts to become a more harmonious, productive and prosperous society.

We Canadians believe that our diversity is our greatest treasure, and it is these same values of openness that we defend throughout the world.

As a woman who was born in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, who arrived in Canada with her political refugee parents and who ascended to the highest office in her adopted land, I embody this ideal with pride and emotion.

My trip to China, which I am privileged to begin in your presence, is one of friendship.

On behalf of my fellow Canadians—over one million of whom are of Chinese origin, something quite remarkable in a population of 34 million—I want to tell you that what you are accomplishing is important to us, as are the challenges you are still facing.

My family and I—as well as the delegation accompanying us—are anxious to hear what you have to say and to explore, step by step, the realities of the promises and aspirations of today’s China.

We will do so everywhere we visit.

Here in Shanghai, the city of superlatives, one of the world’s largest megalopolises and the host of a world expo; then in Guangzhou, one of China’s most productive cities and the place most Chinese-Canadians come from; in Chengdu, the site of the terrible earthquake in 2008 that left Canadians shaken but eager to offer relief and support to the victims.

And lastly in Beijing, where I will continue my conversation with President Hu Jintao on the ways we can enhance, deepen and diversify an already productive relationship between our two countries.

These, then, are the four cardinal points of my journey of friendship, a veritable compass rose.

I will pay particular attention to the reconstruction efforts in Sichuan, as my native land of Haiti also suffered an earthquake in January. Canadians have also contributed enormously to efforts to rebuild the devastated country.

The outcome there was horrific: nearly 300,000 dead, hundreds of thousands wounded and traumatized, over one million homeless and still consigned to makeshift camps, cities completely levelled, and public infrastructure, universities and over 4,000 schools destroyed.

For Haiti, a country with little resources, a country that has known so much misery, it will be impossible to emerge from this catastrophe without the support of the international community. You and I both know how important solidarity is to rebuilding.

Tomorrow at Expo 2010 Shanghai, I will be taking part in Canada Day, our national holiday, which I am in the habit of celebrating alongside my fellow Canadians. So my being here with you today is proof of just how much we value and cherish our relationship with China.

After the spectacular Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games—which preceded the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games that took place this past February—China is once again being thrust into the zenith of international meetings this year by hosting Expo 2010 Shanghai, in which Canada in honoured to take part.

Just like Montreal in 1967—a city I lived in for many years and one of Shanghai’s sister cities—we are certain that you will stage a moment of great global solidarity and reaffirm our joint membership in a world we must protect and celebrate together, in all its diversity and wealth.

It is incredible that this opportunity to strengthen our ties of solidarity and our unique contributions to the heritage of humanity will take place in the Middle Kingdom, one of the oldest and most illustrious civilizations the world has ever known.

In closing, please allow me to recount a fanciful geography lesson I shared with your President last week that captured my imagination and the imagination of countless Canadian elementary school students, who were asked to look carefully at a map of the world displayed on the chalkboard.

We were told that if we were to dig a hole, anywhere in Canada, we would arrive in China.

And in my child’s mind, filled with wonder, I deduced that we were antipodal neighbours.

And so, dear friends, even though I am visiting your country for the first time, I feel like I have arrived in a neighbouring country, among friends, as you are among us.

Friends with whom we can freely commit to reimagining the world, for the good of all. 

Friends whose prowess as builders of infrastructure I have witnessed throughout my official and State visits to Latin America and Africa.

Friends with whom we want to enrich the dialogue of civilizations, increase cultural exchanges and business ties, and expand people-to-people relations.

Friends who remind us, with that beautiful and profound expression of Chinese wisdom, that “the heart is deeper than a journey to the centre of the earth.”

Thank you for listening, and long live the friendship between Canada and the People’s Republic of China!