China said Thursday it has accepted the Canadian government’s appointment of Dominic Barton, a veteran economic adviser, as the country’s new ambassador to China, hoping he will play a positive role in returning bilateral ties to normal, Global Times reported.
The news was announced by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang at a daily briefing. Geng also reiterated China’s demand for the immediate release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
“The Canadian side should take full responsibility for the severe challenges that bilateral relations face, and Canada clearly knows the root cause,” said Geng.
Barton, 56, is a Ugandan-born Canadian who has extensive experience in China. He’s also well known for consulting as a global managing partner at the firm, McKinsey & Company.
In 2009, Barton was awarded the Magnolia Gold Prize by the Shanghai government for his outstanding contributions to the city’s development.
The appointment of Barton, who believes in China’s role as a strong engine of global economic growth and is determined to improve bilateral ties, does send a positive signal from the Trudeau government, Liu Dan, a research fellow with the Center for Canadian Studies of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, told the Global Times.
But how much the new ambassador could help improve strained relations remains uncertain, said Liu.
“Barton is expected to present a reasonable, cooperative and peaceful side of China to Canadian politicians and public, many of whom still have limited knowledge or understanding toward a rising China,” Yao Peng, managing deputy director of the Canadian Studies Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Yao also noted that it’s hard to tell how much Barton could help change the Trudeau government’s policy toward China, and the key to bring bilateral relations back to the right track is to properly handle the case of Meng, a symbolic incident that Chinese suffered injustice and misunderstanding in the country.
Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was arrested in December 2018 in Canada based on a request from the US. She is now fighting extradition to the US where it is feared she will not get a fair trial.
Yao noted that the appointment, announced days before Canada’s election at the end of this month, is a sign that the Trudeau government wants to solve the case of Meng and show goodwill toward the Chinese in Canada.
However, the measure is far from enough and more effective measures must be taken to ease Chinese anger and the huge loss suffered by the business community, said Yao.
Geng also confirmed that Cong Peiwu, former director-general the Department of North American and Oceania Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, will take office as China’s new ambassador to Canada.
The new Chinese ambassador is expected to take a tougher stance while presenting rational Chinese voices to Canada, said Yao.