This is the first of two posts about China and the ongoing Sino-American trade war and the dilemma this has created for Canada. This deals, mainly, with the Sino-Canadian imbroglio. The second, dealing with the Sino-American trade war, follows, tomorrow.
It is rather sad to say that most of the US led, liberal-democratic, Western world has been a little less than zealous in supporting Canada in our current struggles, over the rule of law, with China. As with the earlier Saudi Arabian tiff, Canada, as historian Robert Bothwell said, has ““never been this alone,” … [and] … “we don’t have any serious allies.”” Are the chickens coming home to roost? Are Prime Minister Trudeau’s own actions, at the Trans Pacific Partnership meeting, for example, and during his trip to India, which must have puzzled serious people around the world, causing world leaders to stand aside when they, even in their own interests, might want to warn China about its actions?
Is that why Prime Minister Trudeau sent John McCallum out to make some inexplicable remarks at a media event, in Canada, to which only Chinese journalists were invited? Is this a last ditch attempt to bribe China? The Globe and Mail says that while Trudeau’s staff has “argued Mr. McCallum was trying to demonstrate to Beijing’s rulers that Canada’s justice system is fair and impartial and Ms. Meng would have the opportunity to vigorously defend herself … [at the same time] … commentators who are friendly to the Chinese government seized on Mr. McCallum’s remarks on Thursday to bolster Beijing’s assertion that Ms. Meng’s arrest was politically motivated and aimed at harming Huawei, which the United States says is a threat to national security.” Basically it looks like Justin Trudeau is proving the Chinese right: this is, for Trudeau’s Canada, purely a political matter, and the law can be damned. According to one unnamed ‘senior official,’ quoted by journalist Tonda MacCharles, Justin Trudeau asked President Trump to use Meng Manzhou’s extradition request as a bargaining chip to ensure the release of Canadians being held by China … that looks like he, Trudeau, considers this entire case, the US extradition request, China’s consequent actions and Canada’s reactions, to be 100% political.
If that’s the case then I have to say that it now looks like the Trudeau regime is, indeed, trying pay a bribe to the Chinese. It looks like Prime Minister Trudeau totally misunderstood the Canada~China power imbalance and is, now, trying to find ways to do what the Chinese want: to kowtow to Xi Jinping. Let me be clear, again, China is sending a message, not just to Canada, but to Europe, Japan, Australia and the Philippines and everyone else: this, China is saying, is how a great power can act when it wants; respond accordingly. It looks like Justin Trudeau is trying that tactic, now.
The Globe and Mail suggests there is an alternative; it says that “Guy Saint-Jacques,” a seasoned Canadian diplomat, “who was Canada’s most recent ambassador to China, said the Prime Minister must replace Mr. McCallum and find a way to resolve what he described as the “worst crisis” with China since Canada established diplomatic relations in 1970 … [he said that] … “One solution would be to start the process for a new ambassador, but it takes a while for the process to select a new ambassador … But what is possible for the Prime Minister is to send a special envoy to China with a mandate to try to defuse this crisis.”“
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems, to me, to have totally destroyed his own, very valid, argument that Canada, unlike China, is a nation governed by the rule of law. It now appears that he has validated the Chinese view that all laws and courts are just tools of those in power. He has, in short, completely messed up Canada’s relations with China and, en passant, with the liberal-democratic West which appears to doubt his judgement and his ability to get anything done.
It is time, in my opinion, to follow-up on M Saint-Jacques’ sensible suggestion:
- First, recall Mr McCallum and put him out to (graceful, well funded) pasture;
- Second, appoint a special envoy to China to pave the way for a real, professional diplomat to take over the mission;
- Third, fire Chrystia Freeland because she, either ~
- Was complicit in this monumental screw-up and, therefore, must be removed for seriously bad judgement, or
- She was excluded because she does not have the confidence of Team Trudeau; and
- Finally, and this is advice for Canadian voters, it is time to get rid of Justin Trudeau because he has reduced Canada to the status of an international bad joke by trying to play local, parish pump, domestic politics with out foreign policy. He’s a bloody dunderhead and Canadians, in their millions, must decide to consign him and his government to history’s rubbish heap, where they belong.
Of course, there is another alternative (there often is): Team Trudeau could do a volte face and join, wholeheartedly, with the USA in trying to contain and even derail China’s rise. We could join Cold War 2.0 as full fledged allies and, in the process, likely burnish our own, traditional, special relationship with the USA. That’s the sort of thing that President Trump wants to see and would welcome; he, too, craves formal, public kow-tows. There is a a case for that … it’s not one I favour, but I think I can make it on grand strategic grounds, especially if one considers that the aim of a grand strategy is to get what you want without fighting (too hard, anyway) and if one agrees that our socio-political and economic relationship with the USA is to all other things as three is to one. Of course it would alienate Justin Trudeau’s base amongst the Laurentian Elites who are, by and large, ferociously anti-American.
Justin Trudeau has, almost single-handedly destroyed Canada’s, always limited, soft power. (But the sad state of Canada’s defences, our hard power, is not entirely or even mainly his fault, that goes all the way back to his father, Pierre Trudeau.) He has a limited range of options to set things right:
- Sadly, I am sure that it is most likely that he and his advisors will continue to try (and fail) to muddle through because they believe that enough Canadians can be distracted by a pretty smile and sunny ways to get them re-elected in 2019 and that, we must understand, is all that matters to Team Trudeau;
- He can do an about turn and join Team Trump in Cold War 2.0 against China. That is a legitimate option, even though I do not favour it; or
- He can try to mend relations with China, and indeed with most of the world by adopting consistent and consistently sensible economic, foreign, political and trade policies.
The best option is for Canadians to elect Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives this year, so that he, and his solid, experienced team, can repair the damage and start again. It must be clear that it is time for a real change, a change back to adult leadership in Canada.