Even the Nicest Country in the World Doesn’t Like China
Not long ago, Global News of Canada published an analysis on the important question: "Are Canadians really as nice as the world insists?" The article discusses the well-known stereotype from different angles, including the findings of researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, who even concluded that “Tweets originated in Canada. . . tend to be friendlier and gentler. "
In general, Canada is described as a tolerant, multicultural, liberal democracy. That doesn't require a lot of Twitter analysis. Canada, like its southern neighbor, is a nation of immigrants. Unlike the United States, however, Canada is experiencing an immigration growth trend. Recent analysis in Forbes showed that legal immigration to Canada increased 26 percent between 2015 and 2019, while it decreased 7 percent in the U.S. over the same period. According to government forecasts, the native language of every third Canadian will be a language other than English or French by 2031, from 1 to 10 in the past five decades.
Within this diversity are Canadians of Chinese descent who make up about 5 percent of the Canadian population, compared to about 1.5 percent in the United States. Chinese Canadians generally make up 40 percent of Asian Canadians.
All in all, Canada is a tolerant, multicultural, open democracy with a significant percentage of citizens with a Chinese heritage. This makes the results of a survey conducted last month by the non-profit, impartial Angus Reid Institute (ARI) particularly compelling. In a survey of more than 1,500 Canadians from May 2-4, only 14 percent of those surveyed said they had a positive opinion of China. A Pew Research Survey in 2017 held this number at 48 percent.
Beijing's lack of transparency and correctness in dealing with the corona virus is a factor in this sharp decline in convenience. 85 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement: "The Chinese government was transparent and honest about the COVID-19 situation in this country." Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had previously said little about China's use of the virus. In a briefing last week - after the poll was released - he told journalists that "since the pandemic began, there have been many questions about the World Health Organization, the behavior of China and other countries."
In addition to the abuse of COVID-19, Canadians are fed up with China on another specific matter. In a high-profile case that has swept across the nation, two Canadian expatriates are held hostage by the government in prisons in China in response to the December 1, 2018 arrest at Vancouver Airport, Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
The U.S. government had charged Ms. Meng with fraud and other charges related to Huawei's alleged dealings with Iran to violate U.S. sanctions. The United States is trying to extradite them from Canada to face these charges, which are only part of Washington's global campaign against Huawei over national security, intellectual property, and other concerns. Ms. Meng is not only a Huawei executive, but also a daughter of Huawei's founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei.
Ten days after Ms. Meng's arrest, Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat who had been posted to Hong Kong and Beijing and now works for the International Crisis Group, was arrested in Beijing. The same day, the Chinese government arrested Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who has lived and worked in North Korea and is now running a tourism and cultural exchange service on the border between China and North Korea.
"The Two Michaels," as they have become known across Canada, have drawn public attention. The men were charged with espionage, held incommunicado and unable to receive visitors or spend meaningful time with their families. Media organizations keep hostage-taking calendars like US media during the hostage crisis in Iran from 1979 to 1980.
The prospects for these two unfortunate men deteriorated on May 27 when a Canadian judge refused to accept Ms. Meng's request to dismiss the extradition fee. The judge ruled that the U.S. charges against Ms. Meng were also a crime in Canada at the time of her arrest. This so-called double crime standard led the judge to decide that the extradition trial could continue. The state's Global Times reflected an increasingly assertive government stance in Beijing and a fundamental lack of understanding of the rule of law as democracies stick to it. She responded to the verdict by noting that Canada was a miserable clown and a scapegoat in the fight between China and the United States. "
Still, Ms. Meng, who is in custody, is free to move and is often seen in public as she swings her ankle monitor almost as a wardrobe accessory while the two Michaels are in jail, isolated and with bleak prospects in Chinese. Canadian diplomats are prepared for the worst, including a possible death sentence for falsifying potential espionage sentences.
The May ARI poll reflects the growing reluctance of the Canadian public towards China in areas related to these matters. While there were no questions about the hostages, the survey found that 78 percent of Canadians believe that Huawei should not be involved in building the country's 5G network. Three quarters of respondents said that human rights are the most important factor in China-Canada relations. Only a quarter responded to “Canada’s trade and investment opportunities” as the main consideration - and has decreased 14 percentage points since the arrests in December 2018. Overall, almost 9 out of 10 respondents agreed that "China cannot be trusted with regard to human rights or the rule of law".
These results are consistent with the emerging consensus in the U.S. and much of Europe that China is a strategic, potentially hostile competitor. In Canada, as elsewhere, this largely negative outlook transcends political party divisions. The hostility is the same in the provinces of the country. Even in the western province of British Columbia, with the largest Chinese-Canadian population of around 10 percent, only every fifth respondent has a positive opinion of the People's Republic of China.
Canada's institutions had started polluting China before the Huawei / hostage crisis. China under President Xi Jinping is seen as a threat to national security and intellectual property rights, and out of synch with Canada's longstanding support for human rights. In March 2018, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) hosted an academic workshop for government, business, university and think tank participants. The minutes of the workshop published in June this year leave no doubt as to the conclusions of the expertise gathered. In "China and the Age of Strategic Rivalry," the gathering experts make several observations about China's challenges to Canada's economy and security, including:
A warning that Chinese companies, whether state-owned or not, have "close and increasingly explicit links" with the Chinese Communist Party
China's growing practice of "using threats and temptations to attract business and political elites", including China's stance on Taiwan and other geopolitical issues
The emergence of aggressive attitudes by Chinese diplomats and others who are ready to "harass" the media and scientists who may question China's activities. For example, this is in line with the Global Times' reference to Canada as a "pitiful clown" in response to the Canadian court's decision to extradite Meng.
Following the CSIS report came a more devastating charge against China's designs for Canada. Just when the excitement surrounding the arrest of Meng Wanzhou and the two Michaels was felt in late 2018 / early 2019, long-time international correspondent Jonathan Manthorpe published The Claws of the Panda, in which he describes a systematic campaign by the People's Republic of China to expand their campaign in Canada. In his book, which is similar to Clive Hamilton's Silent Invasion published in Australia the previous year, Manthorpe describes China's extensive activities using "friendship societies", universities, aggressive diplomacy and other channels to influence and, if necessary, intimidate the Canadian public and his Views on China. From Manthorpe's perspective, the Huawei incident revealed China's true designs for the ordinary Canadian, as the ARI poll shows.
It is no coincidence that books about China's open and, in some cases, secret influence on Canada and Australia appear around the same time. Every country experiences a similar level of chauvinism and abuse, and every country is a victim of similar tactics. Beijing is very aware of the approach. While the North American country is larger - and has a larger GDP - it shares a growing dependency on raw material exports to China with Australia. Trade is two-thirds of the Canadian economy, and China is Canada's second largest trading partner after the United States. In contrast, Canada is not even one of China's 15 largest trading partners.
China uses this leverage as a weapon to influence broader relations with Canada, as was recently the case by imposing tariffs on Australian exports to China when the Australian Prime Minister called for an independent review of Beijing's role in the global pandemic. In the months after Meng Meng and the two Michaels were arrested, the PRC blocked the import of Canadian rapeseed oil, pork and beef.
At the same time, Canada is concerned not only with hostage diplomacy, but also with China's debt diplomacy, a pressure point that Beijing uses more aggressively worldwide during the pandemic to acquire strategic assets at distressed values. Both Australia and Canada have recently announced that they will further investigate the strategic domestic acquisitions of foreign (read: Chinese) buyers. The Chinese gold producer Shandong Gold Mining Co. Ltd. announced in early May that it would purchase Canadian mining company TMAC Resources for $ 207 million. The transaction is expected to be an early test of a policy change in April 2020, when the Canadian government announced - in line with the 2018 CSIS report on the CCP's influence on state-owned companies - that it would "subject all foreign investments by state investors . . . or private investors who are considered to be closely associated with, or dependent on, foreign governments to allow for a more thorough examination under the [Investment Canada] Act. "
A challenge for Canada in responding to China's aggressiveness, which differs from the situation in Australia, is an uneven - and perhaps even declining - relationship with the United States. The Trump administration should see Canada as a natural ally in its own desire to isolate Beijing. Unfortunately, the Canadian perceptions of the United States do not reflect this. In the same poll, in which so few Canadians have a positive view of China, their view of the United States is not much better. Of the twelve countries examined, Saudi Arabia, China and the United States are the three least favorable for Canadians. Since 2009, the US's positive assessment of Canadians has dropped by 30 percentage points and is at a 40-year low. More Canadians see an opportunity for deeper relations with the European Union than with the United States.
The relationship between the United States and Canada will always have its ups and downs, but it should be objectionable for Americans and Canadians alike that the favoritism between the two countries is decreasing so much. At more than 5,200 miles, the United States and Canada share the world's longest undefended international border, reflecting more than two centuries of shared liberal-democratic values. Every country sees China as the authoritarian power it is, and each has an equal share in curtailing the PRC's ambitions. This should be a compelling foundation to revive US-Canada relations.
President John F. Kennedy was in office for only a few months when he brought these memorable words to the Canadian Parliament in May 1961:
Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. The economy has made us partners. And the need has made us allies. Those who are so united in nature should not separate.
We should welcome the fact that pathologically "nice" Canada should be fed up with the PRC. It's a colossal waste that it loses its trust in the United States as a cheap partner. Liberal, tolerant, and democratic Canada is nothing more than an opportunity for the United States to revive a natural relationship that has been and can be the envy of the world.
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