As Temperature Rises, Great White North Must Side with Trump
A Vancouver court is the battleground for two different visions of Canada’s future. The United States wants the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, the top Huawei executive, while Beijing wants Canada to let her go.
As a matter of principle and strategy, Canada must stand up to Communist Party of China (CPC) imperialism by siding with her southern neighbor.
The Huawei face-off is more than a simple extradition case. So far, the CPC has operated in nothing but disproportionate, bad faith. In response to Wanzhou’s detention, it has sanctioned Canadian exports and taken two Canadians hostage.
Make no mistake; the CPC is already wielding its growing economic and political clout to control Canadian society. Canada will need to take steps to cope with this growing tyranny, and US President Donald Trump is an ally ready to offer help.
Trade, but at What Cost?
The CPC has weaponized its rising economic status to make disputes costly. China is now Canada’s second-largest trading partner. Goods traded between the two nations have doubled in the last decade, and Chinese tourists, students, exports, and direct investment add up to more than $100 billion a year. Trade and investment with the United States, at $1 trillion, dwarfs this, but the trend is ominous.
Commerce with China is never just commerce; it comes with strings. Beijing expects Canadians to keep Canadian values out of any contracts.
The protests in Hong Kong make clear what is at stake, and no country is more exposed to the events in Hong Kong than Canada. Around 300,000 Canadians live in Hong Kong, the single-largest concentration in Asia and more than in Canada’s territories. In addition, 500,000 Hong Kongers live in Canada, more than reside in mainland China, the United States, or the United Kingdom.
In a televised news conference in August 2019, the Prime Minister urged the Chinese government to approach the Hong Kong protests with tact, arguing the liberal, democratic values of Canada. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister also listed concerns about the potential impact of the bill on Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, on business confidence, and on Hong Kong’s international reputation.
An irritated CPC responded by cautioning Canada against interfering in its legislative process. When Senators Leo Housakos and Thanh Hai Ngo suggested sanctioning Chinese officials under the Magnitsky Act, China’s ambassador threatened “very firm countermeasures.”
A History of Intimidation
The CPC has already shown its willingness to play hardball with Canadian elected representatives. In 2015, Richard Lee, a Liberal Party assemblyman in British Columbia and CPC critic, was detained at the Shanghai airport and then ordered to return to Canada. During his detention, the Chinese authorities hacked his cell phone, giving them access to assembly correspondence.
Freedom of the press may be a fundamental Canadian value, but it is not on the CPC agenda. Reporters Without Borders showed how Gao Bingchen lost his column in the Global Chinese Press, a Chinese-language magazine in British Columbia, after an unflattering article about the Chinese foreign minister. Likewise, Helen Wang lost her role as editor of the Chinese Canadian Post for a critical column about the CPC.
The CPC is also coming for the mainstream Canadian media by hiring lobbyists, among them Karen Wen Lin Woods of the Solstice Public Affairs Group. Woods has used the Toronto Star opinion pages to assert the Huawei extradition case “has put a dark cloud shrouding the psyche of many Chinese Canadians.” She warned of growing “McCarthyism” in Canada.
The university system is another target of CPC vigilance through its funding of Confucius Institutes. According to the documentary In the Name of Confucius, these organizations are vehicles of espionage, censorship, and curriculum manipulation. In addition, Beijing has generous grants for foreign students to study in China, with one catch: abide by government censorship. Of the 800,000 Chinese students enrolled in foreign universities, many collaborate with embassies to blacklist professors and spy on peers.
Not content with holding two Canadians hostage, the CPC is trying to bend the Canadian culture to its will. This will only get worse as Chinese economic clout grows in Canada.
The United States Has Paved the Way
Canada must confront the problem of Chinese tyranny head-on by firmly defending the rule of law inside the nation and abroad.
She can do this by legislating her own version of the US Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, passed in November 2019. This law recognizes Hong Kong as a separate entity from China for trade, investment, and migration. It also allows sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese politicians responsible for human-rights violations. The Canadian government should also invoke the Magnitsky Act, as suggested by Senators Housakos and Ngo.
Second, Canada needs to reduce her growing economic dependence on China. Any steps in this direction will cause some pain. Four of the five top products exported to China come from British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
However, Canada can and should find other markets. The Business Council of Canada, for example, urges strengthening relations with Japan. The federal government could conclude a trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN). Completing pipelines from Alberta to the Pacific Coast and the United States would also reduce the pain for Western Canada.
China’s demands will not end with the extradition trial in Vancouver. Canada needs to realize that she stands at a crossroads and hold steadfast to her values.
Fergus Hodgson is the executive editor of Econ Americas, a columnist with the Epoch Times and a research associate with Frontier Centre for Public Policy.