Many Canadian tourists I have met in Beijing during the Olympics told me that they received particularly warm welcome from the Chinese when their Canadian identities were revealed. They were curious of the source of such favourable reactions. Canada has a peace-loving and culturally inclusive image that the Chinese find easy to like. There are also two Canadians that immediately come to mind when the Chinese think of Canada.
The first one is Mark Rowswell, a University of Toronto graduate who moved to Beijing in 1988 to further his study of the Chinese language and accidentally embarked on a soaring career as a beloved TV personality. Widely known in China by his Chinese name Dashan (which means Big Mountain), Rowswell has become China's most popular foreigner. His fame and popularity is largely predicated on his ability to master the Chinese folk language and his deep understanding of the Chinese culture. For the Chinese people who eagerly want to be understood by the rest of the world, Rowswell's efforts are greatly appreciated and his success is well respected.
Previously relatively unknown in Canada, Rowswell has been brought under the spotlight by the Beijing Olympics. Marching with the Canadian athletes in the Opening Ceremony, Rowswell helped the Canadian team win an especially warm reception from the Chinese crowd. The Canadian Olympic Committee has also appointed Rowswell as a team attache to help its athletes and staff overcome the cultural and social obstacles during the Games.
If we say that Rowswell has contributed to furthering the cultural understanding between the people from China and Canada, there is a Canadian that has laid the foundation of friendships between the two countries as early as in 1938, long before the establishment of Sino-Canadian diplomatic relations in 1970. That Canadian is Dr. Norman Bethune, who traveled to Yan'an, China in 1938 and helped the Chinese in their struggle against the Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War. As a tireless and inventive surgeon and a great teacher, he saved hundreds of lives by performing emergency battlefield surgical operations and medical training for Chinese doctors, nurses and orderlies. Tragically, in 1939 Dr. Bethune died of septicemia from a cut he received when performing surgery.
Dr. Bethune's selfless humanitarian efforts and spirit of internationalism have deeply touched the hearts of all Chinese people. Mao Zedong especially published an essay entitled In Memory of Norman Bethune. Many statues in his honour have been erected throughout the country. Movies and TV series were made to document his legacy. The Bethune Memorial House located in Gravenhust, Ontario has also become a popular destination for many Chinese tourists.
While Mark Rowswell is well liked in China as "the friendly guy next door", Dr. Norman Bethune is loved and highly respected by the Chinese people as a national hero. Both men have contributed to the particularly favourable impressions of Canadians that the Chinese people have.