A Modest Proposal

Commentary, Economy, Gerry Bowler

In 1970, Pierre Eliot Trudeau’s administration decided to cut diplomatic ties with one government claiming to rule China and to recognize another. Out went our acceptance of a long-time ally, the quasi-democratic Republic of China, based on the island of Taiwan, and in came the nasty tyranny known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the loathsome Chairman Mao. This seemed a reasonable thing to do from an economic and raison d’état point of view. Though Canadian troops had been at war with Chinese forces only 17 years before in Korea, the PRC represented a huge potential market that the Taiwanese did not. And besides, Trudeau the Elder always had a soft spot for leftist dictators, as seen by his coziness with Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe, and Zhou Enlai. Canada’s recognition of the Beijing regime led the way to the PRC getting a seat on the UN Security Council and a global diplomatic shunning of Taiwan.

Almost fifty years later, Canada and the People’s Republic of China have reached a crisis in our relations. Despite our present Prime Minister’s fondness for the PRC – it was the country he said in 2013 that he admired the most, praising its “basic dictatorship” for turning around its economy – the Chinese are now attempting to bully us into releasing one of their citizens whom we are temporarily holding on a US warrant. They have arrested two of our people, levied the death penalty on two others, choked our trade in canola and pork, refused to see our diplomats and warned us to cease our “white supremacism” and “actions that undermine the interests of China.”

Canada is in a dilemma. Releasing Ms. Weng will only encourage China to see us as a country it can shove around lawlessly and with impunity. Keeping her in custody (as our laws require) will invite more Chinese damage to our economy and citizens visiting or living in China. Is there a solution? Let me propose one.

Canada’s balance of trade with China is in a deficit; that is, we import almost three times the value of Chinese goods than the amount we sell into China. This is very advantageous to the Beijing regime; we are its 8th largest partner but we run the third largest trade imbalance with it. Goods from China represent 12.7 % of Canadian imports but the Chinese market is less than 5% for Canadian exports. A trade war would be painful to both sides but undoubtedly the PRC would wince if we were serious in signalling that, when provoked, we fight.

But let us take this a step further. Since we are involved in an economic and moral conflict with China, why not do the entirely virtuous thing and withdraw our recognition of this genuinely evil clique in Beijing? Recall our embassy staff, students and business folk from the PRC, and expel their diplomats, students, money-laundering billionaires and spies. And then – this is the good part – re-recognize the Republic of China on Taiwan. It is now a true democracy and an industrial powerhouse of its own. Blood vessels would burst in the foreheads of the gangsters in the Forbidden City, invective of the most bloodthirsty sort would fly against Canada, and much of the world would secretly cheer us. Perhaps other countries tired of China’s industrial espionage, flouting of trade rules, interference in domestic affairs, and racist sinocentrism, would follow our lead.

No Canadian politician has the courage (or perhaps, foolhardiness) to take my advice, but if I were in charge of our foreign affairs I would make a well-publicized visit tomorrow to Taipei, the capital of the ROC, just to give the “basic dictatorship” some food for thought.