Transcript of Ambassador H.E. Lu Shaye’s Interview with Ottawa Life Magazine
On August 23, Ambassador Lu Shaye met in the Chinese Embassy with Mr. Dan Donovan, Publisher and Managing Editor of Ottawa Life Magazine, and received his interview. The transcript of the meeting and the interview is as follows:
Lu Shaye: Welcome to the Embassy.
Dan: Thank you.
Lu Shaye: I am glad to meet you and exchange views with you on questions of common concern.
Dan: I am pleased to meet you. I’ve been publishing this magazine for 20 years, and I took a leave for 5 years to a very large global company called Magna International. We got operations in China. Very fascinating with the Chinese, but particularly fascinating with you, you’ve made a big impact since you arrived. People taking notice of you and some of your remarks which I was very interested in.
I have many colleagues in government, and in national media here and I’d like to think that I am fairly informed about China-Canada matters. But I’d like to ask you from my personal curiosity about some of your comments you made and try to understand your perspective.
So one thing you said when you were speaking to the Canadian Press was fascinating. And I was looking at your background, and you are a policy person, and you worked at the epicenter of policy in China. So my thinking would be that, I always noticed the Chinese are very precise. So when you say something, there’s usually reason behind it. And the impression I got and many my colleagues in government and media got after you made those remarks was that, you are saying that in terms of relations between our countries, we have to separate trade and development vs. social issues as human rights and these types of things.
So that’s the first part of the question. At some point, I am curious as to why other countries when they, we go out China for example, we say you have human rights issues, and you do, but so do we. Is it a difficult thing? I sensed the frustration in you that some Canadians and government people seemed to be very judgemental when they deal with the Chinese about those things. Would that be accurate?
Long question (smile). Before you answer, respectfully, can I also add one thing for context? The reason I ask this question is, because as a Canadian, I see our government, and I used to be in government, I used to work for former Prime Minister, you know, by seeing it doing this…but we have our problems here with our first nation people. We have a lot of problems here, we have our former supreme court justice who has said that what happened to our aboriginal people in residential schools was a cultural genocide. We are signatory to the International Treaty on Torture but we have cases of hundreds of people who have been kept in solitary confinement, one case in northern Ontario for 4 years. So if Canada is gonna ask these things, but I noticed that the Chinese and most other governments we do this to, they never respond by saying “What about you?” And is that appropriate? I am just curious of your… Ambassador Shaye’s frustration, but I noticed you didn’t point out some of our foibles.
Lu Shaye: It’s about the different cultures between China and Canada. People should be modest and respectful to others according to Chinese traditional culture. We have an old saying: Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you. It’s against our will to impose our views on others. We would like to present our views, but it’s up to you to decide whether to take it. We will not force others to accept something, nor will we be forced to accept something by others. Canada which belongs to western culture is so different from China that is part of oriental culture. Through my experience of dealing with westerners, I feel sometimes the westerners, thinking they are always correct, are fond of lecturing people and teaching others how to do. Maybe in western cultural origins there is dualism, black or white, insisting there’s but one truth, which if I possess, and if your opinion is different from mine, you will stand on the opposite side of the truth. While Chinese are different. We don’t think it’s a black-or-white world. We think things can be like this and, at the same time, like that. Due to 500 years of capitalism development and the modernization of their economy and society, the westerners think they are superior to other nations and are qualified to teach other countries to follow suit. These are the western culture concept and western countries’ way of doing things in international society that I sensed. As to the specific question of human rights issue, what China opposes is western countries’ fancying themselves as preachers demanding others to do this or that. That’s also why I stress many times in my dialogues with Canadian media that human rights issue should be discussed separately from economic and trade issues. Because east and west have different criterion of value on human rights issue, whose criterion should we use to judge human rights situation? Western countries’ or China’s? It’s a question without a fixed answer. Rather than quarreling this futilely and delaying the FTA negotiation, it is better to put aside this question and focus on discussing the free trade deal. The reason I didn’t touch upon human rights violation cases in past and present Canada is not because I didn’t know them, but because I am not willing to drag the skeleton out of its closet based on Chinese cultural traditions.
Dan: So I have an observation. There’s a view in media circles, for example, in national media circles in Canada, and certainly in the government that 2 years ago (Editor’s note: it was last June actually) when the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister visited and he was speaking about the new silk road and the development in China. He gave a press conference at Foreign Affairs (Ministry), and at one point he admonished the Canadian media. Many people felt that because Stéphane Dion, our Foreign Minister didn’t respond appropriately to that, and that’s why he was moved. They said he was weak. Because there’s a very strong Chinese foreign affairs minister in, and our minister responded very weakly to his comments, to the press. So I am just wondering if you are aware of that.
Lu Shaye: So the Canadian media thought Foreign Minister Wang Yi overreacted. But do they remember that in 2015 a Chinese correspondent who was visiting arctic region with then Prime Minister Harper wanted to raise a question at the Prime Minister’s press conference, but was refused, stopped and dragged out of the scene? Is that how the Canadian side treat journalists? Is that normal?