Liberal government announces career diplomat Jennifer May as new China ambassador

Jennifer May has been named Canada's new ambassador to China. (Government of Canada - image credit)
Jennifer May has been named Canada's new ambassador to China. (Government of Canada - image credit)

The Liberal government has named career diplomat Jennifer May as Canada's new ambassador to China, filling a post that has been vacant since the end of last year.

"A dedicated public servant, Ms. May's many years of diverse experience on international missions, and her deep understanding of Asia, will serve to manage this important bilateral relationship and advance Canadian interests in China," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a media statement.

May will replace Dominic Barton who left the job at the end of December following the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, Canada's alleged spies who were detained by China for almost three years.

May has been with Global Affairs Canada since 1990, previously serving as the ambassador to Brazil and the deputy head of mission at the Canadian Embassy in Germany, according to a government of Canada website.

She has also had postings in Hong Kong, Beijing and Bangkok. The Chinese government agreed to accept May as the ambassador earlier this week. May speaks five languages, including Mandarin, one source said.

"As Ambassador to China, Ms. May will lead Canada's important work in standing up for democratic values, human rights and the rule of law," the federal government said in the media statement.

"Her work will be key to advancing Canadian priorities in the Canada-China relationship, including supporting the long-standing people-to-people, economic, and business ties between our two countries."

Canada has an embassy in Beijing and consulates general in Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Canada also has a network of 10 trade offices spread across the country.

China maintains an embassy in Ottawa and consulates-general in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Canada, South Korea to coordinate on China, says Trudeau

At a press conference in Ottawa with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Friday, Trudeau said that relations with China need a "nuanced approach" to ensure the interests of Canada and other democratic allies are protected.

"China is certainly a real challenging actor in the region. There are areas in which we are going to have to figure out how to work together, like on climate change," Trudeau said.

"There are areas in which we are going to be directly competitive in many economic and trade issues, but there are areas in which we are going to need to continue to challenge China, on human rights, on respect for the international rules-based order."

Trudeau said having friends in the region will be critical to how Canada frames its relations with China.

"For too long, China and other autocracies have been able to play off neighbours and friends against each other by offering bits of market for this product from this country, but not from the others, and the time is now where we actually look to coordinate strategically," he said.