Annoying China

This is the second of two article about China, today, and this one is very specifically about Sino-Canadian relations.

The South China Morning Post reports that “A motion [in the Senate of Canada moved Thanh_Hai_Ngo_20170523by Conservative Senator Thanh Hai Ngo] against Chinese military actions in the disputed South China Sea has been slammed by China, which has called the senator who sponsored the bill “irresponsible” and liable to “stir up troubles” between the two countries … [because] … The Senate, whose members are not elected, passed the nonbinding measure on Tuesday condemning China’s “hostile behaviour” in the South China Sea, complicating efforts by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to improve relations with China … [and] … China’s construction of islands and military facilities in the South China Sea has sparked concerns that Beijing is seeking to restrict free movement and extend its strategic reach there – concerns exacerbated by the fact that some US$3 trillion in trade passes annually.

Then, just to complicate matters further, the Globe and Mail says that “Former CSIS director Ward Elcock says the federal cabinet should reject the $1.5-billion takeover of Canadian infrastructure builder Aecon Group by a Chinese state-owned enterprise but Ottawa should brace for swift economic reprisal from Beijing if it takes this route … [because] … Mr. Elcock said the acquisition of Toronto-based Aecon by China Communications Construction Company, which is owned 63 per cent by Beijing, would represent a serious national-security risk because Aecon is heavily involved in critical Canadian infrastructure.

The first, which has, no doubt, annoyed the Chinese leadership ~ because it is an official,  legislative action, can be, probably, written off as mere Conservative political meddling, designed partially to embarrass the Trudeau government and partially to appeal to the East-Asian (non-Chinese) community in Canada. (It will “play” well in the Philippines-Canadian and Vietnamese-Canadian communities.) The second is not unique; there is, already, widespread opposition to Chinese expansion into Canada. That opposition is, most likely, mostly uninformed or ill-informed, but it is real. But many groups oppose Chinese takeovers of Canada businesses for a wide range of reasons. The second may be more dangerous to any potential for a Canada-China free trade deal … which Ward Elcock, a pretty well informed citizen, does not see as being “on the horizon in the near term.”

While the Trudeau government wants such a deal, in part because, as Mr Elcock says, they are ““slightly naive” and even “seduced” by China which they see as the “new Rome”in my guesstimation the Chinese can and will hold out for terms that include easy, even unfettered access for Chinese capital, including in the energy and pipeline businesses. We can see, in Africa, how China does business. They will, I believe, want similar access in Canada, especially to our financial markets.

China has embarked upon an aggressive soft power campaign, which includes aiming to compete many free(er) trade deals, with the strategic aim of equally and even displacing the United States as the world’s “indispensable nation.” Canada is part of that plan, but not a key part. We’re important but not vital.

Tuff_001The combination of Senator Ngo’s motion and Ward Elcock’s expert testimony is going to make Sino-Canadian relations a bit more difficult in the near term. Eventually the Trudeau regime, or its (soon it is to be hoped) replacement, will have to come to terms … and they will be terms that largely favour China, for obvious reasons. Eventually there will be a Canada-China free(er) trade deal because it just makes good economic sense for both countries. But, for the moment, it is off the table.
For the moment we must accept that Sino-Canadian relations are in for a cool period; that will change in due course. Until then, rather than just waiting for a thaw Canada HMCS_Winnipeg_(FFH_338)_underway_in_2001.JPEGshould, as I mentioned earlier today, go one step further and actively promote global freedom of navigation in the South China Seas by sending a Canadian warship to conduct a peaceful, even friendly, freedom of navigation operation in the South China Seas, perhaps in conjunction with goodwill visits to Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. The Chinese are already annoyed ~ it is an opportune moment to create warmer relations with China’s neighbours and Canada’s TPP partners.

3 thoughts on “Annoying China”

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