The US in particular cannot allow Canada – given such close integration of our countries – to become a tool of the Chinese Communist Party.
Unsurprisingly, the Trudeau government continues to show a reticence to getting tough on China or strengthen our ties with our close allies.
Even as China’s economy shows serious signs of weakness, and as China’s ‘inevitable rise’ seems less assured than ever, Dominic Barton – the Trudeau-appointed ambassador to China – continues to push for closer economic ties:
“In fact, he suggested in recorded remarks for the Canada China Business Council that doing so was crucial to Canada’s economic well-being and encouraged firms to study China’s just-released five-year plan for guidance.
Barton did acknowledge that winning the release of the two Michaels from “arbitrary detention” and clemency for Canadian Robert Schellenberg, who’s on Chinese death row, were top priorities.
But “it’s critical that Canadian firms seize opportunities where they exist and take advantage of the continuing economic rise of Asia and China,” said Barton.
“The growth and the nature of growth of China’s economy has significant implications for Canada’s economic prosperity,” he said. “Regardless of one’s outlook on it, China really cannot be ignored … Where trade is concerned, our companies need to engage in support of our economic interest while being true to our values.”
Further, Barton talks as if all is now well between Canada and China, as if we should just ignore the fact that they kidnapped two of our citizens for use in hostage diplomacy:
“The big obstacle in Canada-China relations has been resolved and we’ll see where things go from here,” he said about the Meng-Two Michaels exchange. “Our view is that China will be fine, will be quite transactional about the relationship and willing to right the ship on Canada-China relations quite quickly.”
If by ‘transactional’ he means any Canadian doing business in China has to worry about being taken and used as hostage in possible future ‘transactions,’ then sure.
But of course, Barton isn’t really concerned about that.
He is still locked in the same short-sighted mindset that afflicts much of Canada’s political and corporate class.
For many years, that same type of thinking (more trade with China would make them more open and democratic and help everyone get richer) was the dominant mode of thinking in all the main political parties in the Western World.
However, as the costs of doing business with China piles up, and as China makes it clear that they expect their ‘business partners’ to sell out their values and give the Chinese Communist Party more and more influence within their countries, a backlash has grown.
In the United States, the Trump Administration began taking strong measures in regards to China, including the imposition of tariffs and restrictions on China’s ability to expand in certain parts of the US economy.
Australia has begun taking similar measures, in addition to combatting China’s influence efforts. Australia is doing so even as China imposes a significant economic cost on Australia. Of note, China is also paying a heavy price, as the drop in imports of Australian coal has contributed to severe power shortages in China – demonstrating that China is not as invincible and economically secure as the CCP likes to claim.
And in the UK, Boris Johnson – a self proclaimed ‘sinophile’ (aka someone who admires China and has a strong interest in China’s civilization) has joined with the US and Australia in the AUKUS alliance – widely seen as an effort to build a stronger counterbalancing coalition in response to China’s rising level of belligerence.
All of this goes to show that there has been a clear change in mindset among much of the Western world.
That change has happened in Canada as well – among the Canadian People:
As noted by the Globe & Mail, “More than 75 per cent of Canadians think the federal government should ban Huawei Technologies from this country’s 5G telecommunications networks in a new Nanos Research poll that finds hardening attitudes toward the Chinese state and business relations with Beijing.”
In addition, “Nearly seven out of 10 Canadians oppose deepening business ties by negotiating a free-trade deal with the Chinese government. Sixty-nine per cent say Canada should delay negotiating a trade deal, up from 47 per cent in a 2019 survey. Only 19 per cent support proceeding with negotiations, down from 43 per cent in 2019.
Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians support, or somewhat support Canada joining with the United States, Britain and Australia “to contain China’s growing power.” Nine per cent oppose or somewhat oppose this. Last month, the U.S., Britain and Australia struck a new defence pact, AUKUS, to counter China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.”
This dramatic shift in public opinion is being ignored by Dominic Barton, the Trudeau government, and much of Canada’s corporate community.
They are still focused on the shortsighted idea of gaining profit in China, without realizing that the cost outweighs the benefits.
Years of effort to build connections with China can be destroyed on a whim by a diktat from the CCP, and China’s economy is becoming less free and open, and even more state run.
Turns out that the Chinese Communist Party is indeed a Communist Party, and after decades of ‘allowing’ some expanded free enterprise to build up the economy (credit for which goes to the industrious people of China, not the CCP), they are closing things off again.
China also has a massive debt problem, and a horrendous demographic situation, meaning all past claims that they would inevitably surpass the United States are seeming less and less certain.
The key takeaway here is that the main ‘justification’ for selling out Canadian values to profit in China looks even weaker, as profiting in China is no guarantee.
What will our Allies put up with?
This raises the big question:
How long will our allies put up with Canada remaining weak when it comes to China?
From a strategic perspective, the United States cannot permit a country right next door to be subservient to the Chinese Communist Party.
Further, given the deep economic and security ties between Canada and the US – not to mention that we have what is supposed to be an ironclad military alliance – the US, along with the UK and Australia – could justifiably see Canada as being negligent and shirking our duties.
That won’t be permitted to continue.
The reason is simple:
The United States in particular can exert immense leverage over Canada.
Ironically, we almost never hear the political/corporate ‘experts’ talk about this.
They always talk about what China could do to Canada, but never about the US.
Yet, our reliance on trade with the United States dwarfs our trade with China by a massive margin.
We have a security alliance with the United States, and obviously don’t have one with China.
Further, we are basically reliant on US military protection, given the moribund state of our underfunded, underequipped, and scandal-ridden demoralized Armed Forces.
And when it comes to intelligence sharing, our country relies on information from our allies like the United States, and they in turn often rely on us.
All of that is to say there is no circumstance in which the United States will permanently put up with a Canada that is weak on China.
Whether it takes a phone call from the US President to Trudeau, or backchannel discussions (aka threats), Canada will inevitably join our allies in getting tougher with China.
The only question is whether we will show some backbone and stand up for our values on our own initiative, or whether the Liberal government will have to be shamed and pushed into doing the right thing by Canada’s allies.
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