I see, in the Globe and Mail, that “China’s new envoy to Canada warned that Beijing will launch tough countermeasures against Canada should Parliament act on a planned Senate motion calling for sanctions against Chinese leaders.” This seems to be the normal reaction for Ambassador Cong Peiwu who is a career diplomat who has specialized in North American affairs. He seems, to me, to be very much in tune with Xi Jinping’s modus operandi which, contrary to quite long-standing Chinese custom, seems to be to show strength and bluster at every opportunity.
The immediate cause of concern for China’s envoy is that “Canadian senators Leo Housakos and Thanh Hai Ngo plan to table a motion next week calling on the Trudeau government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials connected to human-rights abuses. Of particular concern to international observers is China’s activity in Hong Kong and in the western Xinjiang region.” These are Magnitsky Act provisions that are available under Canadian law. As Terry Glavin explains, in Maclean’s magazine, “The Senate motion, developed by the Conservative senators Thanh Hai Ngo and Leo Housakos in close consultation with Hong Kong democracy activists, would target officials directly implicated in the brutally systemic persecution of China’s Muslim minorities, particularly the Uighurs of Xinjiang. But the motion’s immediate sights are set on officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong, where millions of people have been marching in the streets since last July in a popular democratic insurrection that has sprung up to defend Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing’s advancing police-state encroachments.” This is something I am very glad to see. I advocated for this a couple of weeks ago. Canada needs to get up off its knees and stand up for something, for our principles, for a change.
““If it happens, it certainly will be a very serious violation of Chinese domestic affairs,” Ambassador Cong Peiwu told reporters Thursday in Montreal. “I think it would cause serious damage to our bilateral relations. So certainly we will make … very firm countermeasures to this.”” That’s a serious threat from a serious country that is able to inflict serious economic pain on Canada.
Is it really worth it? This is September 2019 data from Global Affairs Canada:
The “Liberal old guard,” as Terry Glavin calls them will point out that China is a major trading partner, bigger than India, Japan and South Korea combined, and they buy $2Billion worth Canadian products (resources, food, goods and services) from us each month and we have no other markets for them … Canadian jobs are at stake. Are my principles really more important than a Québec pork producer’s sales? It is a fair question. With relations with the USA being problematical, given the whims of President Trump (and Prime Minister Trudeau’s habit of tossing ill-considered, gratuitous insults at him) and the EU being in disarray, don’t we need to focus on China? Three years ago I would have said, “yes!,” and I would have been onside with e.g. Jean Chrétien and John Manley.
But not now. Now, I believe that Xi Jinping has stepped over a couple of important lines. I think I understand his strategy, and I remain convinced that there is no value, to anyone, in an armed conflict with China,* but I think that the US-led West needs to push back against some, not all, Chinese provocations. Canada needs to do that for two reasons:
- First, it is, quite simply, the right thing to do; and
- Second, as former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd told us, “China respects strength and consistency and is contemptuous of weakness and prevarication.”
The Trudeau government should not oppose Conservative Senators Housakos and Ngo when they introduce their motion. They are doing the right thing, for Canada, in the right, diplomatic, way. The Trudeau Liberals need not support it, actively, but they should indicate that they do not oppose it. That, alone, will send a much-needed message to China that Canada cares about liberty, democracy, the rule of law and fair dealings with others. Canada needs to face the fact that China is not our friend and it does not want to be. China cares about trade with us … it wants to buy what we have for sale, sometimes it needs what we have, and it wants to keep selling to us. Yes, Beijing may take further action to punish us for standing up to them, that’s a risk worth taking.
* I do, on the other hand, believe that Canada should be ready, willing and able ~ much more able than is now the case ~ to take military action to confront and contain Arab, Iranian and Russian actions, wherever they occur.