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FUREY: Canada-China relations are facing a reset – and that’s a good thing

China hasn’t become more like the rest of the world. Instead, it’s pressuring the rest of the world to become more like China.

By: Anthony Furey

There’s an odd mood right now in Ottawa about what’s going to happen next on the China file.

The questions and the tone are mostly of the same variety: What is China going to do next? How are they going to respond? Will Canada find a way to release Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou? How will we patch up this damaged relationship?

These questions all have the same angle to them, the same underlying assumption – — we’re the passive actor in this exchange and ultimately it’s the communists in Beijing who set the agenda We just determine to what degree we obey or disobey.

This is the wrong attitude to have, one that we need to pivot away from.

Canada needs to talk more about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to reshape the agenda and how we’re going to be proactive on this file.

Back in the 1990s, the establishment opinion on the issue was that China was a rising power that we all needed to get behind. We needed to make them our ally and trading partner.

This makes sense up until a point.

The hope was that through increased ties with the Communist regime in Beijing, they would slowly become more like us. That they’d abandon their anti-democratic, centrally-planned ways and head in our direction to be more like a Western democratic capitalist country.

Fast forward to today and almost the opposite has happened.

China hasn’t become more like the rest of the world. Instead, it’s pressuring the rest of the world to become more like China.

Their disproportionate reaction to Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is a natural result of this. They detained not one but two prominent Canadians on trumped-up allegations, they re-opened the sentencing of one Canadian to give him the death penalty, their Ambassador to Canada has accused us of “white supremacy” and their spokespeople are laughing at us.

“I can tell you for sure that we are not worried at all,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing on Wednesday in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s recent statements calling for the release of detainees.

“You can count by the fingers of your hand the few allies of Canada that chose to side with it on this issue. These several countries can by no means represent the entire international community,” Chunying said.

Do you see what they’re doing?

They’re saying that China calls the shots more than Canada and our allies do.

And guess who they mean by allies? The United States, of course. That’s what this is all about: China’s attempts to realign global power away from the U.S. and towards them.

I’ve heard a lot of people say China doesn’t care about Canada and there’s little we can do in all of this.

Not true.

If they didn’t care about us, their state-owned enterprises wouldn’t have been trying to buy up our natural resource companies and other strategically important assets, like construction giant Aecon.

Secondly, if they don’t care about us all that much and the relationship chills, then maybe that’s OK. Maybe a reset of the relationship is what’s needed right now.

Does it make sense to increase trade with China?

Does it make sense to enhance relationships?

Sure.

But it can’t be done entirely on their terms.

This isn’t just about current trade deals or Trudeau’s naivete about the ills of socialism and Communism. This is about what we want Canada to look like in the decades and even centuries to come.

There are a few things we can do right now to help reset the playing field in Canada’s favour:

  • Follow the footsteps of our allies, and announce Huawei is banned from playing a role in our 5G grid.
  • Commit to a permanent ban on Chinese state-owned enterprises buying Canadian resources and companies.
  • Publicly denounce China’s Ambassador for his offensive comments.

It’s time to reorient things in our favour.

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