Badaling, China - Stephen Harper will be devoting much of this day to meeting with the senior leadership of the Chinese government and Communist Party. But this morning, he went sightseeing.
The Prime Minister and his wife Laureen travelled 80 kilometres northwest of Beijing to briefly tour the Great Wall at Badaling, which boasts one of the best preserved and most visited stretches of this world wonder. This is a de rigour destination for visiting government leaders: Richard Nixon famously walked over these stones in 1972; current U.S. President Barack Obama was here only last month.
Mr. Harper's visit took place against the backdrop of a crisp, brilliant autumn day. (International Trade Minister Stockwell Day, typically, didn't wear a coat.) The Prime Minister and his wife, sometimes accompanied by dignitaries, sometimes on their own, walked along the wall, the PM occasionally pointing to distant - well, we have no idea what he was pointing to.
When Mr. Obama was asked his impression of the Great Wall, he replied: "It gives you a good perspective that a lot of day-to-day things we worry about don't matter so much. Our time here on Earth is not that long. We better make the best of it."
When a reporter shouted a question asking Mr. Harper what he thought, he replied "unbelievable." When asked if he was tired, he replied "not yet."
The itinerary gets meatier in the coming hours. The Prime Minister has an afternoon meeting with Hu Jintao, the President of the People's Republic, and its final authority, followed by a meeting and dinner with Premier Wen Jiabao, the government's most senior manager.
Canada is hoping to negotiate greater freedom for Chinese citizens to visit our country as tourists. This untapped potential - there are more than a million relatives in Canada for the Chinese to visit - would go a long way to redressing the trade imbalance between the two countries. This writer's hometown of Gravenhurst, Ont. - birthplace of Norman Bethune, who is still revered in China as a great humanitarian who served the Chinese people in a time of need - would certainly benefit. But any further speculation along this line would involve a conflict of interest.