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covid19 Opinion stories

Canada’s appeasement of China needs to stop

To accept China’s numbers is, at best, naïve, and potentially far more insidious given China’s penchant for propaganda.

Step aside Hanoi Hannah: it’s time for Politburo Patty to shine.

I can’t think of any other name for Canada’s health minister, who boldly hewed to the Chinese communist party line during a briefing by Canadian officials on COVID-19.

Asked about whether China’s official numbers, which were adopted unquestioningly by the World Health Organization, were trustworthy, Hajdu said Thursday there was no reason to distrust China’s figures.

“There’s no indication that the data that came out of China in terms of their infection rate and their death rate was falsified in any way,” she said before accusing the reporter of “feeding into conspiracy theories.”

Her comments led a columnist for China Daily, a newspaper owned by the propaganda wing of the Chinese communist, to call her a “role model,” albeit a “disappointment to those paparazzi journalists and fearmongers.”

While her finger-wagging to the reporter is still preferable to how the Chinese politburo deals with reporters who challenge the party line, it is still dangerous from a health official who has touted her government’s actions as being rooted in evidence rather than politics.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t go as far as Hajdu did. When he was asked earlier in the day whether he trusted China’s numbers, he simply said those were “questions…for future times.”

Hajdu merely revealed what has always been a significant China-sized blind spot in the Trudeau government’s approach to foreign policy.

Canadian foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne last week publicly thanked the Chinese for doing the “right thing” in response to a tweet from China’s embassy to Canada promoting a donation of medical supplies from the Bank of China.

I am all for giving credit where it’s due, but any supposed benevolent acts from China must be met with skepticism.

The shipment came as reporters were pointing out Canada had sent 16 tonnes of medical equipment to China when it was the coronavirus pandemic’s epicenter.

Champagne fell for what EU diplomat Josep Borrell called China’s “politics of generosity.”

At this point, it’s not even clear whether the shipment from China can be used. The Netherlands had to recall 600,000 subpar Chinese-made face masks. Spain found its Chinese-made test kits had only a 30% accuracy rate, making them even less effective than dollar store pregnancy tests. Several other countries have made similar findings about millions of units of gear.

To accept China’s numbers is, at best, naïve, and potentially far more insidious given China’s penchant for propaganda.

Despite Hajdu’s contention that we should take China’s data at face value, there is ample evidence China has been less than forthright throughout this crisis.

American intelligence officials concluded China underreported its case and death counts, according to a Bloomberg report. The British government similarly believes China’s coronavirus death toll could be 40 times the official tally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Chinese people have seen stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in the Hubei province – far more than the government’s numbers would warrant.

Interestingly, a Barron’s report suggests the data from China show a “near-perfect prediction model that analysts say isn’t likely to naturally occur.”

Even the Chinese regime acknowledged “shortcomings and deficiencies” in its handling of the coronavirus.

While these seeds of doubt are important, they shouldn’t detract from the broader point that China is simply unworthy of being given the benefit of the doubt about anything.

Canadian Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said as much when condemning Hajdu’s Chinese apologetics.

“Any government that operates in an autocratic fashion, a communist government that denies basic human rights to its own people, that stifles dissent and squashes the free press, should be distrusted,” Scheer said at a press conference Friday morning. “It’s puzzling to me why a Canadian minister would vouch for a country – a government of a country – that operates in that fashion.”

It’s less puzzling when you look at the pattern emerging with Trudeau’s Liberals, which even predates Trudeau’s tenure as prime minister.

In 2013, he became something of a punchline among Canadian conservatives when he lauded China for its expediency at the expense of democracy.

“There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China. Their basic dictatorship is actually allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime,” he said at a 2013 campaign event.

I’m all for diplomacy, but this is an admiration Canadians can live without.

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