Justin Trudeau should listen

I see, in the Globe and Mail, that there is yet another case of Canadians being imprisoned in China on (most likely) trumped-up charges. The Globe and Mail says that “Peter Wang and Ruqin Zhao are Chinese-born engineers who worked in the Toronto area, described by a former manager as immigrants who sought a better life for their daughter when they came to Canada in 2002. The couple was arrested in 2017 on a return to China to visit relatives, according to state media reports …[and] … Last month, Chinese state media said Mr. Wang and Ms. Zhao, both Canadian citizens, had become the first defection case disclosed by security authorities, after they were sentenced to prison in late 2019 – three years for Mr. Wang and two for Ms. Zhao. It’s not clear whether Ms. Zhao remains in prison, since it has been more than two years since her arrest … [but] … their conviction adds them to the number of Canadians caught in a Chinese justice system that operates under the control of the Communist Party, which has been accused of employing hostage diplomacy to further its political ends.

The article says that “the Canadian government has made no public comment on Mr. Wang’s and Ms. Zhao’s case – in contrast to repeated demands for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Canadians arrested in China in December, 2018 … [and] … the couple’s sentencing underscores the risks to educated Chinese who have immigrated to other countries in recent decades. Many of those who have immigrated to Canada have taken up important roles in the country’s universities and in the private sector.” There is considerable angst in some security circles and in he media about a number of Chinese nationals who have immigrated to North America (and to Australia and Europe) and who are without a doubt, agents of the Chinese state ~ either willing agents who came to Canada intent on stealing information or, in more cases, I suspect, unwilling agents who came to Canada (or Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark and so on) seeking a better life and were then pressured by the Chinese government ~ using e.g. threats against family members still in China ~ to steal secrets from their new employers. That threat is real, but most Chinese-Canadians are loyal, hard-working, ordinary people: good neighbours and good Canadians, too.

Mr. Wang and Ms. Zhao,” the article says, “had worked at a military-linked research institute in China before coming to Canada. They lived in Edmonton and Toronto, with Mr. Wang working to refurbish military transport aircraft in Alberta and as a systems integrator for an aircraft landing-gear company in Ontario.” Maybe they did bring some useful technological insights to Canada. I know, personally, a Chinese railway switching system software expert who was hired, here in Canada, because of his experience working on China’s very advanced high-speed rail systems. The flow of knowledge around the globe is normal and natural.

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 13.56.35imagesBut the Xi Jinping regime wants to slow and even stop the exchange of knowledge unless it provides specific advantages to China. In that respect, Xi and Donald Trump are very much alike ~ two peas in a pod. And, as America tries to push China back down and as China tries to push America out of East Asia, Canada is caught in the middle.

Which brings me to an article, also in the Globe and Mail, in which Marieke Walsh says Screen Shot 2020-05-11 at 09.22.14that “Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says the only way to deal with China is to make sure Canada stands up to the superpower, and while he doesn’t want to tell Canada what to do, he believes it would be prudent to ban Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. from Canada’s 5G network.” The article goes on to say that “In an interview with The Globe and Mail this week, Mr. Turnbull, who banned Huawei from Australia’s next-generation 5G mobile networks, said he would be surprised if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is getting different advice than he did on the risks of giving the Chinese telecom giant access.” The public record says that he’s right and both Canada’s security services and the Canadian military have warned the Trudeau government against allowing Huawei to have a role in Canada’s 5G rollout.

In a new book (A Bigger Picture) that he is promoting, Mr Turnbull wrote that ““An adversary with a permanent beachhead in an economy’s most important enabling platform technology would have the ability to make all or parts of the network – or devices and institutions within it – unavailable or unresponsive.”” He makes two important points:

  • Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 13.13.37China has changed since Xi Jinping came to power. Jean Chrétien, harperlike most Western leaders over the past 45 years, even Stephen Harper, believed that China, under Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, was becoming less authoritarian and more open to joining the Western-led, liberal world order. Maybe Xi Jinping, in 2012-16, was willing to hide his claws, as Deng Xiaoping advised, and maybe Donald J Trump has provoked an unnecessary Cold War 2.0, but, for whatever reasons, China has changed. That’s undeniable. It is, in 2020, as Malcolm Turnbull says, an adversary; and
  • Our telecom-information network is, indeed, our “economy’s most important enabling platform.” Every segment of our modern economy, from resource extraction to nuclear power uses information technology. How our 5G platform is built and managed matters … HUGELY.

Ms Walsh tells us that “As the country absorbs the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Trudeau and his government have taken a cautious approach with China. The Prime Minister has avoided levelling the same critiques over the country’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak as other allies, and Health Minister Patty Hajdu accused a journalist of peddling conspiracy theories when asked whether she trusted the information China was sharing.” It’s time for a change. Mr Turnbull is right: Canada needs to stand up to Chinese bullying, even at the risk of Chinese-artificial-island-landing-stripfurther bullying or of not gaining that worthless, temporary second class UN Security Council seat that seems so important to Prime Minister Trudeau … many of us, as kids or as parents, learned about bullying in grade school. Well, it isn’t Screen Shot 2020-05-11 at 09.35.38much different in 21st-century geopolitics. Xi Jinping is a bully, we’ve seen that in everything from the South China Seas to his use of hostage diplomacy against Canada. We know that bullying does not stop when one appeases the bully. We also know, from experience, that a bully usually backs down when confronted.

Prime Minister Justin. Trudeau should listen to former Prime Minister Turnbull, to his own national security and military advisors and to his allies who advise standing up to China. Canada does NOT need (nor should it want) to make China into an enemy. But Canada must recognize that China is a bully and needs to be treated as such.

 

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