I saw this story (in the Globe and Mail, and elsewhere) about the idea of sending former Prime Minister Jean Chétien to China to negotiate for the release of Canadian being held as, essentially, hostages by China, and, one presumes, to do what Chrystia Freeland cannot, because the Chinese Foreign Minister will not talk to Canada’s Foreign Minister, and restore some semblance of process to Sino-Canadian relations.
But, on social media, David Mulroney, who is a Distinguished Senior Fellow, at the Munk School of Global Affairs, in the University of Toronto and who was Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, raises a point which was nagging at me but which I could not express:
I think that’s a key and maybe fatal flaw in the idea.
Another problem is that, as I have said before, Xi Jinping has fundamentally changed China. He has renounced Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “hide your ambitions and disguise your claws” and now China, openly, strives to be a global superpower.
Sending Prime Minister Chrétien to Beijing would put him in the position of Lord Macartney in his 1793 Embassy to China. The Chinese will reject everything and they will demand a kowtow as a sign of Canada’s weakness. As I have also mentioned before, China is sending a message to the world, not just to Canada, about how it expects to be treated.
On balance, I think it is too soon for any sort of ‘cap-in-hand‘ mission to China. It is time to appoint a new ambassador … and that choice might be politically and diplomatically interesting. It is, also, time to strike back at China, in whatever ways we can, rather than rewarding them, even if that adds greater burdens to the Canadians who are being held as hostages and to Canadians trying to do business with China.