This follows on from my post, made a couple of days ago, about China’s potential expansion into the Mediterranean, via a Belt and Road deal with Italy.
I have been saying, for over three years, now, time after time, at that, that Canada needs to step up and share part of burden, born almost exclusively by the USA, with a bit of help from Australia, and help to maintain freedom of navigation in the SouthChina Seas. Of course I never really expected that Justin Trudeau would understand, much less want to practice real leadership in the world … but I could hope.
Now I see in the South China Morning Post, in a report by Wendy Wu, that “European countries will reinforce their presence in the Indo-Pacific, including increased naval operations, to counter China’s assertive activities in the region, analysts and a diplomatic source have said … [and] … The European Union was “already starting to make its mark in the Indo-Pacific”, said Liselotte Odgaard, a visiting senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, at an event on Monday discussing the EU’s role in the region … [she said, also, that] … the EU would have a general policy line such as opposition to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and support for freedom of navigation, but it could not go further into concrete policy initiatives, which “will be left to groupings of countries to do … [this matters because] … The South China Sea is an important waterway for about US$3 trillion of trade each year – a third of global trade … [and much of that trade is between Europe and East Asia, but] … China claims it has sovereignty over the waters, but is contested by its neighbours, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.“
Ms “Odgaard said some countries had sent personnel to join French vessels in recent years to support the EU’s call for international rules for freedom of navigation in the waters … [and, she said] … “This year, for example, Denmark will send a frigate and France will send a carrier group [into the Indo-Pacific] … [thus] … there is a gradual step-up of this effort, which is by a grouping of countries that all agree that we should carry out operations in support of [freedom of navigation in] the South China Sea.”“
Canada has sent warships, late last year, into the East and South China Seas for combined exercises with allied navies, but it has yet to actually join in the freedom of navigation demonstrations, as Australia and Britain have already done and as the British plan to do, again, in the future. The Canadian visit to the region is, like a similar one by India, very welcome, but not enough.
But why do more? In an article, published a couple of weeks ago in the Globe and Mail, Professor Charles Burton (Brock University) and a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing writes that “China no longer wants to comply with the Westphalian system of equal sovereign countries that underlies a rules-based international order, and that is hard for Ottawa to accept. Mr. Trudeau was seriously misled when he thought China would accede to international standards on environmental, gender and labour rights to get a trade deal with a Group of Seven country, but none of his incompetent advisers suffered any consequences for the ensuing fiasco … [and] … Canada must change the channel, immediately. The current dynamic is poisonous to future Canada-China relations, and damages our credibility with our allies, including the United States.” Professor Burton lists a number of diplomatic and security steps that Canada could and should take … I agree with most, I have reservations about one or two.
Canada needs to do more, and, very explicitly, to send warships through the disputed South China Seas waters. Canada needs to step up and be counted as a Pacific power and, especially, as a (maritime) trading nation … even Justin Trudeau can see that.
Edited at add: A few hours after posting this I saw and article in the South China Morning Post that said “An article written by China’s ambassador to Britain about Western nations’ use of “gunboat diplomacy” should serve as a warning to London regarding its diplomatic strategy towards Beijing as it prepares to leave the European Union, analysts said … [and] … Titled “‘Gunboat diplomacy’ does not promote peace”, the commentary by Liu Xiaoming was published on Wednesday by The Daily Telegraph and came after British Defence Minister Gavin Williamson said last month that Britain planned to send its new aircraft carrier to the Pacific once it had been commissioned … [Liu Xiaoming said that] … “Asserting their nation’s right to freedom of navigation has long been an excuse for certain Western politicians to flex their military muscle by sending naval vessels to the South China Sea” … [and] … “These moves flagrantly infringe upon China’s sovereignty and maritime rights, deliberately drive a wedge between China and its neighbours, and exacerbate regional tensions.”” I take that to mean that China is afraid of these freedom of navigation exercises because they might mean that the US led West is actually serious about defending e.g. Malay, Philippines and Vietnamese sovereignty against Chinese expansion into their territorial waters.