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Former Canadian ambassador to China Howard Balloch had high praise for China's late Chairman Mao Zedong, saying that he and his administration achieved "great things."
The Chretien-appointed Balloch made the comments in a testimony at the Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, according to Blacklock's Reporter.
“What is interesting about China is it’s changing," continuing by saying “One of the great things Mao Zedong did—and there were many more things that he did bad—but he turned more or less a completely illiterate society into a literate society, and we see the benefits of that today when we see Chinese students in all our universities and all over the world.”
“We saw the beginnings of that huge change between 1978 and 2014 and that was almost continuous,” said Balloch. “Not always at the same pace, but almost continuous. And it’s only in the last five years that we’ve seen this kind of counter-reform.”
Balloch had previously served as ambassador from 1996 to 2001.
Balloch also praised China's personal freedoms, post-Tienanmen Square. Balloch told MPs that China "got upset for a little while because of the Tienanmen crisis," continuing by saying that he thinks "except for the last few years, personal freedoms in China grew substantially between 1978 and 2014. The legal system evolved in positive ways. It hasn't gotten to where we would like it to get."
Another former ambassador, Guy Saint-Jacques, discussed the situation regarding imprisoned Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have both been imprisoned for nearly two years. Saint-Jacques said the situation with China could continue to go on for years.
“I would say it has become very difficult to remain ambivalent on China after having been victims of their brutal retaliatory measures,” said Saint-Jacques: “Really, truly, the only language China understands is firmness.”
“We have to brace ourselves for years of difficult relations,” said Saint-Jacques. “This crisis shows the challenge of dealing with a superpower that ignores international rules when they are not to its liking, and does not hesitate to severely punish countries that refuse to obey its dictates.”
Saint-Jacques believes that there should be more rigorous and sustained inspections on Chinese products "to ensure they satisfy our safety standards." He would later say that MPs should take a variety of measures to deal with China, including zero tolerance "for interference in Canadian politics, on Canadian campuses and in the Canadian-Chinese community," and a crackdown on espionage from the Communist country.