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Justin Trudeau

The son of China’s old friend

Justin Trudeau

Canada’s new leader

In 1970 Canada’s then prime minister Pierre Trudeau was one of the first Western leaders to formally recognise the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China, paving the way for its entry into the UN a year later.

Last week his son Justin Trudeau won an overwhelming majority in the general election, securing his place as Canada’s next leader. As the son of an ‘old friend of China’ will he enjoy a warm welcome in Beijing?

How will he handle relations with Beijing?

In 2013 Trudeau was asked which nation he admired most. He replied: “There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China. Their basic dictatorship is actually allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime.” The remarks earned him some criticism at home, but backhanded compliments aside, Trudeau was ahead of his peers in launching an official Sina Weibo account the same year, suggesting an awareness of China’s growing importance to Canadian trade and investment.

Canada’s outgoing government negotiated the country’s involvement in the newly-announced Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. Now it will be Trudeau’s job to review the TPP and formally ratify it. Whether his administration also negotiates a bilateral deal with China is one to watch.

Former Liberal Party prime minister Paul Martin told the Globe and Mail newspaper that Trudeau would push Canada into a “new era” in its relations with Beijing and that it would make “enormous sense” to ink a free trade deal – even adding Canada ought to push for China and India to be included in the TPP.

Li Keqiang offered Trudeau his formal congratulations from Beijing, rehashing the standard fare about the deep understanding and friendship between the two countries. Chinese netizens preferred to focus on Trudeau’s youthful looks, although at least one respondent felt moved to put in a good word for China’s president. “Xi Dada [Xi Jinping] also looked good when he was younger,” he said.

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