Harper meets with most recognized Western person in China, Canadian Mark Rowswell

harper in china-reutersIf the name Mark Rowswell doesn't sound familiar, you probably haven't been to Shanghai lately.

Over the past two decades, the Ottawa native has made a name for himself as Da Shan or "Big Mountain" in Chinese. He is a performer who is China's most recognized Western personality.

Known for his prodigious language skills, good nature, and impressive height (hence, the whole "mountain" moniker), Rowswell has been a well-loved comedian, talk show host, and public speaker since first appearing on China's televised New Year's gala in 1988.

Since then, his popularity has only increased. As the Globe and Mail notes, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't adore the guy. Except for expats who, despite their best attempts, can't compete with Rowswell's flawless Mandarin.

Now, in an attempt to promote greater cultural understanding between the two countries, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed the 46-year-old as Canada's goodwill ambassador to China.

The announcement comes at the forefront of Harper's four-day trip to China. As Postmedia News reports, the Prime Minister landed in Beijing Tuesday to kick off a visit meant to foster stronger economic and diplomatic ties between both nations.

Though Rowswell is best known for his mastery of xiangsheng, a form of comedic dialogue, he is no stranger to serving his home country in an ambassadorial capacity.

During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Rowswell acted as a team attaché for the Canadian Olympic Committee, and released a number of videos to help Chinese speakers learn basic English expressions in anticipation of the event. He was also named Canada's commissioner general for Shanghai's Expo 2010, and in 2004, he received an award for his work promoting a joint Canada-China cancer prevention program.

"For many years Mark Rowswell has used his extraordinary talents to build bridges of understanding between Canada and China," Harper said in a news release. "I am pleased to name this highly recognized and respected individual as Canada's Goodwill Ambassador to China."

Rowswell was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2007 and is the subject of a 1996 documentary by Montreal comedian and filmmaker, Guy Nantel.

(Reuters photo)