China is much in the news in Canada these days. The arrest of a very senior Huawei executive and ongoing security concerns about that company’s intentions if it is allowed to participate in enabling the 5G mobile wireless networks in Canada ~ four of the “Five Eyes” partners have already disallowed Huawei products on their future 5G networks over concerns that the company is, in fact, too closely tied to China’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) and security services ~ have many people on edge. There is some concern that the charges against Huawei are trumped up and are just part of the Trump administration’s campaign to curb China’s growing dominance in the technology sector and that the US national intelligence agencies are cooperating by encouraging their allies to act on the United States’ fears.
But there’s more to it that that. Please watch this clip from a TV interview with former ‘Minister of Everything‘ John Manley, who would make an excellent Conservative prime minister if he chose to re-enter politics.
John Manley says that we, Canada, have found that “over the past two years that we have an unreliable economic partner South of the border” and he adds, “We’ve never been, in my view, as alone in the world as we are now.” I think that is a very valid and very important point: for 250+ years we were tied to a global leader ~ first to Britain, from 1763 until, say, about 1943, and then, more and more tightly, to the USA. But, suddenly, the USA has changed course; it no longer wants allies and trading partners, it just wants subordinates and compliant colonies. President Trump has overturned more than a century of pretty consistent US strategic policy towards Canada, especially.
Mr Manley then says that “We need China … entirely for economic reasons … [and, he says] … China is the way we validate the policy of diversification of our trade and economic interests. There is no other choice.“
That’s something that Conservatives have to wrap their heads around. There is a lot of opposition amongst Conservatives, some of it led by Andrew Scheer, it seems, to free(er) trade with China. I suppose it is based mainly on China’s unsavoury reputation as a trading partner and on its tyrannical political system. And let me be clear, I’m with John Manley when he says that Canada needs free(er) trade with China “entirely for economic reasons.” I have said, before, that “I’m sure most thinking people would like a world dominated by Xi Jinping even less than we like one dominated by Donald Trump,” so we do not want to be China’s ally or even its friend, and certainly not its client, we just want to be its trading partner in a rules based system. And let’s also be clear: China will want to make the rules so that they work to its, not our advantage … I agree that Canada wants and needs free(er) trade with China but we will need a team of adults to negotiate it ~ not the dimwits and children who negotiated NAFTA down to the new USMCA that Donald Trump wanted
But, back to the start point … The whole process, which would be fraught with difficulties at the best of times, just got more complicated by the arrest, on a US warrant, of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer at Huawei and a daughter of the Chinese telecom giant’s founder, inVancouver as she waited to change planes. The issue goes well beyond a question her guilt or innocence of circumventing US sanctions against Iran, the Chinese are livid. The South China Morning Post says that “China has ratcheted up the pressure on Canada to release the detained executive of Huawei Technologies over the weekend by threatening “grave consequences” and accusing Canada of “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people”, escalating the case into one of the worst diplomatic rows between Beijing and Ottawa … [and] … Chinese foreign vice-minister Le Yucheng on Saturday summoned Canadian ambassador John McCallum on Saturday night to lodge a “strong protest” against the arrest of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver and urged Ottawa to release Meng immediately, according to a brief foreign ministry statement.“
The last time Canada “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” was when Stephen Harper invited the Dalai Lama to Canada. But the Chinese foreign ministry also called in the US ambassador for a bit of an undiplomatic dressing down because they seem to believe that this is all part of a US plot to shut Huawei out of the Western 5G marketplace. I’m not blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for any of this: we have a treaty with the US that obliges us to act on a legal warrant ~ we’re being damned, by China, for what we did and we’d be damned, by the USA, if we hadn’t done it. What it means is that trade talks with China have, almost certainly, dried up for a while, even though a delegation of Canadian executives are en~route to China as I write this, and it will take some time, some patience and some careful, thoughtful, skilled diplomacy directed by serious political leaders to set things right.
That means that we need a whole new government in 2019 … in my judgement there’s no other choice about that, either.