DB: You began your role as Consul General of Canada in September 2015. What do you feel have been the biggest changes in the relationship between South China and Canada in the last three years?
I’ve witnessed a huge expansion in cooperation and ties between South China and Canada, with more business people traveling back and forth, more students, more travelers, and more formal twinning relationships between provinces and cities. In November, Nova Scotia has just signed their twinning agreement with Guangdong. Direct flights have been added between Guangzhou and Vancouver and Toronto, as well as flights from Xiamen and Shenzhen to Canada. Our government leaders are really focusing on this relationship too, to help people in both countries make connections to benefit our respective economies and societies. In December last year Prime Minister Trudeau visited Guangzhou, and several cabinet ministers have visited, including those responsible for the Environment and Climate Change and Agriculture. Since 2015 Premiers from six Canadian provinces have visited South China, some of them several times and with large business delegations. Alberta has established a new twinning relationship with Guangdong, and now like the province of British Columbia, has opened a representative office here to promote trade and investment. Canada’s Atlantic provinces have also been extremely active, in industries they are well known for such as high-end seafood and education, and also in high tech. These rapidly increasing contacts between leaders, business people, students, and citizens traveling back and forth are the engines to driving a stronger trade and investment relationship, and building better knowledge and appreciation of each countries’ strengths.
DB: You joined External Affairs and International Trade Canada in 1992. How has your previous experience prepared you for your current role?
I’ve been very lucky to have a foreign service career focused on Asia. I believe this region of the world, and especially China, is an incredibly important partner for Canada, now and in the future. My two previous assignments in China, at our embassy in Beijing from 1995-2000 and 2006-2011, really opened my eyes to the deep complementarity between our people and our economies. We have much to offer each other. So now, serving as Canada’s Consul General for six Chinese provinces – Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangxi and Hainan – I get to work with a great team of colleagues to promote commercial, cultural, sports, educational, tourism and other links, based on this complementarity, to create jobs, economic opportunities, and better understanding between people in both countries.
DB: What initially attracted you to come to China and aside from your job, what inspires you to stay?
As a university student, I was studying Mandarin as part of my degree in East Asia Studies. I was offered a scholarship to study language for one year at Nanjing Normal University, through an Ontario-Jiangsu province twinning relationship. What a great opportunity for a young penniless student! That was what brought me, and my interest in China has kept me coming back. During my time in Nanjing, I also met the person who would ultimately become my husband, so that has also kept my interest in China very current and very strong!
DB: On your website, you emphasize that your work here in China is all about “people and partnerships.” What does this mean to you and what procedures have you implemented to ensure this remains your primary focus?
We often speak about relationships between countries, but in reality, the core of these relationships is based on contact between individuals. Our work here in large part centres on acting as the connector, bringing together Canadians and Chinese with similar interests and objectives to work together collaboratively, across many fields of endeavour. And of course, we have many partners in this effort; in 2018, it has been very exciting to witness the creation of a new organization, the Pearl River Delta Canadian Chamber of Commerce, known as CanCham PRD. We look forward to working closely with them as they bring together Canadians and people with close ties to Canada in the PRD region to help them be successful as business and organizations operating here. And there are many other examples; we partner closely with Canada’s provinces to promote greater awareness of them in China as travel destinations and sites for business partnerships and investment. British Columbia and Alberta provinces have offices right here in Guangzhou to allow them to reach out to local residents.
DB: Both China and Canada have rich yet in many ways, vastly different cultures. What advice would you give to Canadian expats hoping to discover and embrace the multiplicity of culture that Guangzhou has to offer?
I would have two pieces of advice; first, let your appetite be your guide! Guangzhou has some great places to eat, and a lot of culinary variety. So, don’t be shy about heading out to try to new dishes, and if you can go with local friends, even better as they will surely have favourite spots to recommend. My second piece of advice is, ask those same friends for recommendations about sites and day trips in and around Guangzhou. It’s very easy with a busy city life here to miss out on amazing places in Guangzhou itself and nearby, and a lot of them are not so well covered in foreign travel guidebooks. Some of my favourites are Shunfengshan Park in Shunde with its amazing gate or paifang, or just walking around Xiaozhoucun here in Guangzhou.