The Trudeaus agreed to have the Father’s book published by a company run by the Chinese Communists in 2005

Chinese experts suggested the 1960s book would likely be subject to heavy censorship

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It turns out that a 2016 edition of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s memoir wasn’t his family’s first foray into Chinese state-run book publishing.

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In 2005, a company affiliated with the Communist Party obtained family approval – and a preface from Brother Sacha Trudeau – for a Chinese edition of a book their father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, co- co-authored. written in the 1960s.

Chinese pundits disagreed on Wednesday on why a publisher would be interested in Two Innocents in Red China 50 years after the fact, suggesting it was either out of admiration for Pierre Trudeau – or to attract himself the favors of his eminent sons.

Either way, one scholar said, he was likely under heavy censorship.

Neither child had entered politics in 2005, but speculation has been boiling since Pierre Trudeau’s death in 2000 that one of them would take the plunge. Justin Trudeau did so three years later.

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The offer to republish the book Two Innocents by Pierre Trudeau and his journalist friend Jacques Hébert was probably an attempt to flatter two influential figures in Canadian affairs – an “insurance policy” in case one of them showed up. in the elections, said Guy Saint-Jacques, former ambassador to Beijing.

“The approach is always the same: you make people feel special, you tell them they understand China and you pretend to give them special access,” he said. “Book publishing falls into this category because it gives a face to authors even though they cannot know for sure how many books are actually sold. “

But a leading China scholar at the University of British Columbia said it was doubtful whether the offer to translate and publish Pierre Trudeau’s 1960s book had anything to do with the attempt to influence the Trudeau sons.

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It was more likely that it was common Chinese practice to publish versions of books about world leaders considered important or “empathetic” to China, UBC professor Paul Evans said. He said he saw books on Western heads of state from Angela Merkel to Margaret Thatcher in Chinese bookstores.

“(Pierre Trudeau) is the second best-known Canadian in China. The first is (Doctor) Norman Bethune, ”he said. “That they wanted to publish his book in Chinese translation would not surprise me at all. “

In fact, the Canadian business community and many politicians at this time were eager to tap into the booming Chinese market. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper made repeated trade-focused trips to China after his election in 2006.

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A more relevant issue, Evans said, is the fact that almost all books published in China, whether or not by state-owned companies, are subject to censorship that has only worsened in recent years.

He said he released a recent book after censors in China said they would remove any references to the Tiananmen Square massacre, Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward or human rights in general – about a third of the volume.

“It’s a murky and risky prospect,” said the professor.

In fact, the prime minister was not at all involved in the Chinese reissue of his father’s book, which was handled by Pierre Trudeau’s literary agent at Westwood Creative Artists, Liberal Party spokesperson Alex Deslongchamps said. .

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He is also unaware of any “financial or material” information regarding his father’s estate, which is part of a blind trust created in 2013, Deslongshamps said.

The general problem emerged recently with a report that a Chinese version of Justin Trudeau’s memoir was published in 2016 by a state-controlled publisher. Security advisers to the then Prime Minister told The Globe and Mail that they would have discouraged translation but, despite everything, were never told.

A decade earlier, Two Innocents in Red China – which recounted Trudeau Sr. and Hébert’s trip to the country in 1960 – was published by the Shanghai People’s Publishing House.

An online description of the company, originally created by the Communist Branch’s propaganda department in Shanghai, indicates that it has been at the forefront of producing books on “party building.”

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In a 2016 interview with Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau said he had been approached by Chinese officials about the reprint of his father’s book and asked him to write a preface.

He said he suggested visiting China before writing the introduction, and later the Chinese publisher encouraged him to write his own book about his experiences. Sacha’s resulting title – Barbarian Lost – Travels in the new China – was released here in 2016. A different publisher – not Shanghai People’s – released it in China in 2019.

The translation of Pierre Trudeau’s book is unlikely to generate much revenue for the publisher after paying for the translation – and the advances the sons received, said Charles Burton, a former diplomat in Beijing and member of the ‘Macdonald Laurier Institute.

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“This kind of book written by foreigners based on a carefully watched short tour of China does not sell well in the PRC because they are generally ridiculously ill-informed and lacking in significant insight,” he said. “There are dozens of them collecting dust on the shelves of state bookstores all over China.”

Rather, the publishing deal would be designed to curry favor and “a sense of reciprocal obligation” with Justin Trudeau, Burton argued.

“This is very much in keeping with the strategy and goals of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Labor Department, which is very well-resourced. “

The Conservative Party – which has pledged a tougher stance on Beijing if elected – took advantage of the fact that Pierre Trudeau’s book was published in China 16 years ago as further evidence of an overly comfortable relationship between the Prime Minister and the People’s Republic.

“It is extremely worrying that Justin Trudeau was caught hiding a second secret book deal with the Chinese Communist Party,” Conservative candidate Michael Barrett said. “If Justin Trudeau does not tell Canadians about this secret relationship with the Chinese Communists, how can Canadians trust him to defend Canadian interests when dealing with Beijing?

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