Oh, snap - Macleans.ca

Oh, snap


In diplomatic circles this is apparently equivalent to mocking one’s mother.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcome to paying an official visit to China. This is your first trip to China and this is the first meeting between the Chinese Premier and the Canadian Prime Minister in almost five years. Five years is too long a time for China Canada relations and that is why there are comments in the media that your visit is one that should have taken place earlier.


Oh, snap

  1. China still cool

  2. ___I can hardly wait for Harper to bring up the issue of human rights with China — he might be thrown into the Yangtze.

    • But is Harper wearing a life jacket?

  3. Nice heading.
    I'm curious though, is there some protocol over which country has to initiate such things? Why is the premier such a wallflower? Or do they get the unofficial vibes and know better than to make an unwelcome approach?

  4. Of course, having made that point, the Chinese then announced that Canada was a preferred tourist destination, something we've been seeking for ten years, and they said they would open a consulate in Montreal. So all seems to be forgiven doesn't it?

  5. This is one instance where I wouldn't have objected to Harper delivering a nasty retort. Oh well, I guess he only reserves those for people who actually do believe in things like human rights.

    • Quit teasing Robert. There's no conceivable situation in which Harper would have earned your praise. You'd have damned him no matter what he did.

    • To be fair to him, he sort of did.

      He wasn't bad.

      He gets a public insult and rather than return to type, he said politely that no Chinese leader has been to Canada during that time either. And then he moved on to business.

  6. Unless it's all part of their "plan". I for one welcome our new overlords.

  7. "This is your first trip to China and this is the first meeting between the Chinese Premier and the Canadian Prime Minister in almost five years. Five years is too long a time for China Canada relations"

    "I agree with you Premier that five years is a long time. It's also been almost five years since we've had yourself or President Hu in our country,"

    Premier Wen: You never call!

    PM Harper: Phone works both ways!

  8. These little diplomatic spats are for show. Countries have interests, not morals, so pols always do things they might find a bit objectionable to promote trade/wealth creation.

    Also, Chinese are concerned with 'face' a great deal more than we are here in Canada. If Chinese wanted to rebuke us a bit, they would offer some gifts while telling us they are disappointed.

  9. I think the "Oh snap!" part of the whole thing is the fact that it was said in a public photo op/joint statement scenario. I may be watching too much West Wing on DVD lately, but methinks this type of candor is usually reserved for behind closed door discussions.

  10. Did Harper respond by asking about Huseyin Celil?

  11. ''…that is why there are comments in the media that your visit is one that should have taken place earlier…''

    it's not because the government runs the media,
    not because anyone defying or embarrassing the government could face execution.

    And how about our Canadian media?
    If they wrote a critical article of China (instead of being critical of Harper)
    would they be allowed back in China, ever?

    Our Canadian media so eagerly attacks Canadians over 'alleged human rights abuses' they had no hand in,
    and don't say boo when it comes to China.
    Except to line up with the Chinese govt and take a swipe at Harper,
    which is always a desirable stand for our msm.

  12. It's quite surreal how some media outlets have hyperbolically built this up into a "stern rebuke". At the very worst, it was soft, respectful chiding.

  13. One reason that PM Harper took so long was that we have been in a minority governemnt situation and his overseas travel has been limited. Don't forget he has met his Chinese counterpart on many occasions previously. It has been interesting to note that PM Harper's travel schedule has suddenly expanded now that his government is no longer under constant threat of defeat in the Commons.

    • Really? Do you even believe that?

      What confidence votes were being held in the summers of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009?

      What "many occasions previously" has Harper had to deal with China-Canadian issues with the Chinese premier? None that i am aware of.

      I'd say it is more interesting to note that PM Harper's travel schedule has suddenly expanded as soon as the Liberals started making noises about the importance of India and China to Canada's economic interests.

  14. What does the Chinese Premier have against Canadian soldiers?

  15. I have to disagree on this one, CR. In the world of Chinese rhetoric and concepts of "face", the language is quite pointed and semi-insulting.

  16. I don't know if it was a stern rebuke or not but it is more than respectful chiding. Chinese are bothered about something if they create a fuss like this, they are sending a message.

  17. I agree that the Chinese were bothered and were sending a message, but in the broader context of the discussions China has been friendly, respectful and engaging. This wasn't the "unprecedented diplomatic breach' that some are making it out to be.

  18. I agree that it was pointed, but I think it's going too far to say that Wen Jiabao's remark was intended to be insulting or even semi-insulting.

  19. "Five years is too long a time for China Canada relations and that is why there are comments in the media that your visit is one that should have taken place earlier."

    That one sentece manages to criticize ("too long") and state a preferred agenda ("should have"). There is no attempt to preserve Canada's 'face,' which all combines to make it harsh on several levels.

    Typical face-saving expression would read more like: "We are, as always, honoured by this visit." [unspoken is the idea that we've not shown sufficient respect by allowing five years to pass, and also a deliberate downplaying of the relative power imbalance, since China is really the party honouring Canada, which actually serves to drive home home the imbalance]

  20. They obviously want us to visit more often. Come on guys, they like us.
    They really like us!

  21. Okay, I think I sort of get how this is a rebuke. Adding the bit on about the Canadian press is essentially saying, "Why aren't you listening to your people?" which even I have to admit is a bit rich coming from the Chinese.

    As to the response, I know my response would have been along the lines of "How fortunate it is President Hu does not have to worry about Chinese media," which is why you won't find me at these kind of things. So Harper's response, being both appropriate and – by ignoring the jibe – diplomatic, was excellent.

    Now.. if anybody needs me, I'll be in the shower.. I feel filthy after that last sentence.

  22. I lived in South Korea for 18 months and Japan for 6 months.

    I found concept of 'face' to be fascinating and bewildering at same time.

    I agree with your view but I also recall that you have too factor in size of 'gift' you receive for being chided. I have no idea how important this is to ChiComs – if we knew how much value ChiComs put on this concession we could tell how angry they are.

    "Most significant, for many Canadians, will be the announcement that Canada has been granted, after years of negotiation, Approved Destination Status by the Chinese government.

    The designation makes it possible for Chinese travel agents to organize group tours to Canada. According to Canadian government data, Chinese tourists stay longer (on average, 28 nights) and spend more (on average, better than $1,600 a visit) than those from any other country. With 1.3 million Chinese-Canadian friends and relatives to visit, the new designation promises to inject $100-million a year into Canada's tourism industry, with considerable growth potential." Globe/Mail, Dec 03 '09

  23. Good point . China needed to have the last word before formally mending bridges.

    I liked Harper's response too. He handled the whole thing gracefully.

  24. Interesting observations, Sean. I've never been to China, so I'll defer to your experience dealing with Chinese officials and scholars.

    Judging from your examples, the Chinese obviously choose their words extremely carefully, so I take your point that what seems like mild chiding to Western ears may in fact be harsh rebuke.

  25. Good point about the gift.

    I found face really fascinating too (though I was too young and stupid to fully appreciate it at the time). The whole art of rhetoric and subtle messaging is quite something to behold – though incredibly maddening for impatient westerners.

  26. I should have added that despite my pickiness about interpreting this particular utterance, I pretty much agree with you that we need to let it ride.

    I really wish Canada would decide where we stand on relations with China, and pursue a coherent approach on that basis. It's not helpful to have each party use China as a platform to play to their respective bases.

    • "It's not helpful to have each party use China as a platform to play to their respective bases."

      i concur Sean, but would just add that nor is is helpful to switch that representation of China in their platform up when convenient.

      I would have found it a lot easier to be riled by China's rebuke today if SH had stuck to his completely legit concern re China's human rights rather then let if fade into the background in today's paper signing performances.

      • Which I think is what the opposition is trying to say, but in an entirely unhelpful and opportunistic way.

        The Conservatives have made a lot of hay out of taking pokes at China, but I don't sense they've thought the ramifications through sufficiently (I also think it's fair to say Harper and his gang are completely out their league in the arena of foreign relations, outside of particular economic files).

        But that's not to say that we haven't thrown morality aside in favour of economic concerns for a long time when it comes to China. As easy as it is to bluster about China and human rights when they're not the room, the reality is we want their labour and markets a heck of a lot more than we want them to stop jailing and killing folks for no reason.

  27. "I found face really fascinating too"

    I taught english to koreans. First day on job, four days after I arrived, I am teaching bilingual class of korean students who want to keep up their english skills while they are in university. I told class about shop I was going to find later – western food. It was wrong neighbourhood and I spent four hours wasting my time.

    Next day in class, my students ask me how my shopping went, wasn't where I thought it was I said, class says they knew I was going to wrong area, I ask why didn't they say something so I wouldn't waste an afternoon, they answer that they didn't want to embarrass me.

    That was my introduction to 'face' but I was lucky that I taught a lot of Koreans who were fluent english speakers and we could talk about whatever we liked. I learned lots about culture and a whole lot else.

  28. That is a classic story! I'm going to use it next time I teach linguistics.

  29. I'd say it is the classic one-upmanship/last word diplomacy of the Chinese.

    You want to rebuke me about human rights? I'll talk about Indian land claims and schools, AND delay approval of business visas for a month.

    You want to complain publicly about delayed visas? I'll walk away from the negotiating table on this trade agreement for a little while.

    You want to threaten pulling back your trade negotiating team? I will pull away my trade team.


    Until you give up and let them have the last word, no matter how little the issue or right or wrong.

    I thought Harper's response was dead on. Mild rebuke back and on to business.

  30. This is completely inappropriate. Harper should have stood up and walked out.