Canada Appoints New China Ambassador In Hopes Of Renewed Friendship

Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos
(Photo: REUTERS/Ruben Sprich)

Canada appointed Dominic Barton as its new ambassador to China. Barton is a key economic advisor of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.

Barton is a senior partner and former global managing director of international consulting firm McKinsey and Company and was based in Shanghai from 2004 to 2009. The Canadian government saw him fit for the positions as he has maintained corporate connections in China apart from working in other parts of Asia. 

The appointment came at a time when geopolitical relations between Canada and China are at their worst levels in 50 years. Reports said the Trudeau government hopes to renew dialogues and ease diplomatic conflicts with China through Barton. 

China received the appointment warmly, according to Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang. The Chinese government is looking forward to bring back the good China-Canadian relations through Barton's appointment, he added. 

At the same time, China is also expected to appoint its envoy to Canada. Reports said the most likely candidate is Cong Peiwu who served as head of the country's Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs. 

While China received the appointment positively, Barton's appointment was objected to in his own country. His appointment was made weeks ahead of a federal election. Being an adviser for the Liberal government, Barton may eventually find himself among the Conservative party who was in strong opposition to China.  

Barton's appointment has also highlighted frictions between the two parties in that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was by-passed in the decision. Foreign affairs critic Erin O'Toole said the decision was disappointing coming from the Liberal government. 

While O'Toole acknowledged Barton's expertise with regard to his connections in China and his achievements in the business sector, he believed he was not the right person for the job. He explained that the supposed envoy to China should be someone more knowledgeable about the culture of the Asian powerhouse, someone, knowledgeable in linguistic, and someone with more experience in diplomatic relations than business. 

China and Canada were not on good speaking terms, so to speak, months before this recent development. The conflict arises amid Canada's detention of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on December 2018.  The detention was made following allegations by the United States that the Huawei executive had business deals with Iran despite sanctions against doing so were in place.   

Canada subsequently accused China of retaliation when it detained diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, both Canadians, nine years after Meng's arrest. 

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