by Zhang Dacheng, Shi Li
OTTAWA, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Canadian Governor General David Johnston has said he has a long-standing affection with the Chinese people and his country is willing to strengthen relations with China.
"I'm looking forward to renewing old friendship there and strengthening the state-to-state relationship that exists at this present time," Johnston, who will kick off a week-long visit to China on Friday, told Chinese reporters in a recent interview in Rideau Hall, his official residence.
"The broad objectives of this trip with respect to bilateral relations involve prosperity, education, innovation and culture," the 72-year-old governor general said ahead of the visit, the first in his new capacity.
Johnston has paid a dozen of visits to China since 1981, when he was president of McGill University in Montreal.
Great changes have taken place in China since the country carried out the opening-up and reform policy in the late 1970s, he said.
There has also been marked progress in bilateral relations since Canada and China established diplomatic ties more than 40 years ago, Johnston said.
"I've watched China in an active way for at least 30 years, whether I'm a university president or a governor general," he said. "So there's a long-standing affection with the Chinese people."
As a university president-turned governor general, education is always high on his agenda when Johnston visits foreign countries.
Canada and China have seen substantial exchanges on the educational front, he said, adding that there are now about 84,000 Chinese students studying in Canada and nearly 4,000 Canadian students in China.
"We hope that number (of Chinese students) will go up to 100,000 by 2015," he said. "And that would be one more example of how this relationship has blossomed over the years and I expect it will continue to do so."
The governor general encouraged Canadian students to spend one of the most important periods in their life in China to understand and appreciate a civilization that has such a long and rich history.
"I have a very personal interest in respect to Canada-China relations," Johnston said. "Three of my five daughters have studied in China at considerable lengths. One of them speaks Mandarin."
He said his family has great affection for China and any time his children came back, they all wanted their parents to eat with chopsticks and eat Chinese food because they felt it was much healthier.
The governor general voiced his hope that Canada and China would promote the relationship between the two peoples.
"In fact (when) we see a number of Chinese people visiting us here at Rideau Hall, I often stop and talk to them and use a little bit of Chinese and they're always surprised and I tell them that some of my daughters speak some Mandarin and they're surprised again," he said.
As a usual way to deal with Chinese affairs, the governor general talked about Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon who joined China's war against Japanese aggression in the early 1940s and devoted his life to the country's liberation cause.
"Bethune brought together a marriage of Western medicine and Chinese medicine, and that marriage, that mutual exchange continues to the benefit of both countries," he said.
Johnston was proud that during his visit to China in 1981, he re-established the medical exchange between McGill University and Peking Union Medical College, a very famous medical institution in China.
"I cannot tell you how delighted people were there to have this important historic medical exchange re-established and reaffirmed," he said.
Johnston said Canada-China relations are based not only on their traditional friendship, but also on a fair assessment of both sides' interests and development.
He said he was pleased to see that, based on the fact that more than 1 million Chinese Canadians have made enormous contributions to Canada over the past century, Canadians are increasing their awareness of the development of modern China and anxious to be a positive part of that.
"So these are all instances where one by one, brick by brick, we build a great building of mutual support and confidence in one another's objectives," said the governor general.
"As we see in the next three or four years a new senior leadership group from China, I expect that we'll continue to see that kind of a marked development."