Barrie McKenna, writing in the Globe and Mail, last week, offers some common sense on how to proceed during the current freeze in Sino-Canadian relations. He opens his piece with some anecdotes about both Canadian private and public sector delays or withdrawals from the Chinese market and he says, and I agree, fully, that “Retreating from China is short-sighted. The obvious message of the past year is that we need to reduce our unhealthy reliance on the U.S. market. And it’s hard to imagine doing that without engaging with China, the world’s second largest economy. In spite of the controversy, Canada will eventually need to deepen its economic ties and work toward more advantageous trade rules in China – either on our own, or working through the World Trade Organization… [snd, he adds] … It also means continuing to flood the Chinese market with pretty images of the Northern Lights, the Rockies and Niagara Falls.“
“Arguably,” Mr McKenna writes, and again I agree that “there has never been a better time to explain Canada to the Chinese. That includes reinforcing to the Chinese that Ms. Meng’s case is being handled by the rule of law, not political considerations, and that Canada will not tolerate state-sponsored hacking of corporate and government computer systems …[and] … Working with the private sector,” that would include e,g, Air Canada and the Fairmont hotel chain, which is headquartered in Toronto but is part of the French owned Accor group, “the Canadian government should be ramping up its tourism promotion in China … [because] …Withdrawing from business dealings, on the other hand, reinforces the Chinese perception that Ms. Weng’s arrest was political.” In fact it is a golden opportunity to remind the Chinese that, unlike, say, Donald Trump, who is famous (infamous?) for backing out of deals at the last moment or trying, again at the last moment, to change the terms, Canada obeys its own laws and will stick to the terms of agreements, like its extradition treaty with the USA. As if to confirm that the Globe and Mail also reports that long lines awaited the opening of the iconic Canadian Canada Goose brand’s first store in Beijing, something Mr McKenna worried might not happen.
Barrie McKenna discusses the project to exclude Huawei from 5G networks being rolled out in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, which a few analysts have suggested is more about America’s trade war with China and the new Cold War 2.0 than about Huawei’s ties to China’s SIGINT agencies and he suggests that Canada, like Britain, is trying to “rag the puck” for as long as possible on that decision before, most likely, falling into line because the “Five Eyes” are, again most likely, more important than a fully, globally, integrated 5G network.
He concludes that “Retreat [from trade with China] would hurt Canada more than China. A record 682,000 Chinese visitors came to Canada last year, injecting more than $1.6-billion into this country’s tourism industry. And every fall, tens of thousands new Chinese students enroll at Canadian colleges and universities … [and] … If Canada wants that flow to continue, Chinese visitors and businesses need to know they’re still welcome here.“
Now is, probably, the time for a trade mission to China, but I suspect that’s off the table as long as Justin Trudeau is in office. At the very least I hope that Andrew Scheer will reach out to the Chinese and say that, under a Scheer/Conservative government, Canada will be “open for business,” business which is done on a fair, lawful, rules based basis, including welcoming Chinese companies into the energy and pipeline industry.
I have said, many times, that I remain worried about China’s long term goals for when (rather than if) its shares global dominance with the US led West, but I am convinced that China is less dangerous when it is ensnared in the global, rules based, trade and political system than when it is forced to operate outside if them. China is not our friend, not the way that Australia and Britain are, but we do not want it to be an enemy, either. We want it to be a trading partner and a fair competitor in the marketplaces of business and ideas. Even so, we must be cautious about how China responds … we were led to believe that only a small handful of Canadians were detained in the wake of Ms Weng’s arrest, but now the Globe and Mail reports that the number is, in fact, 13, although several have been released. We should invite Chinese tourists to visit Canada and we should encourage even more Chinese students to study here but we should remind Canadians going to China as tourists, students or for business that they can, easily, become pawns in a dirty political game.