Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday November 16, 2022
Has the Trudeau government finally got Beijing’s number?
An ancient Chinese proverb: To learn is to come face to face with one’s own ignorance.
Seven years ago, full of naive bravado, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government embarked on a quest for tighter ties with the People’s Republic of China. It assumed it was signing up for all sorts of cost-free economic and political rewards. Instead, it got an expensive education.
Another Chinese proverb: Strict teachers produce outstanding students. The Trudeau government has spent the past seven years getting schooled by one of the world’s most unreasonable tutors, the Xi Jinping regime. The lessons are paying off.
On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly gave a speech introducing her government’s new Indo-Pacific strategy. The full policy won’t be unveiled until next month, but the minister teased its key elements. The most important involves a new approach to China.
The government has evolved from dreaming of ever-closer economic integration with China, to trying to minimize conflict – the better to return to the quest for closer ties – to now, as a cum laude graduate of the Xi Jinping School of Experiential Education, recognizing that China, at least in its current form, is an adversary and a threat.
Ms. Joly says that Canada will of course continue to have extensive trade and economic ties with the world’s second-largest economy. Given how much of the world’s industrial capacity has moved there over the past two decades, there is no other option. But the government now recognizes that Beijing’s autocratic regime, its hostility to the rules-based international order, and its eagerness to impose its will on smaller states, is a challenge to Canada’s interests.
What’s more, Ms. Joly says that, to give Canada the heft to stand up to China, we have to bolster our traditional alliances with Washington and Europe, while creating new ones with countries such as Japan, South Korea and India.
It’s a long way from where the Trudeau government started.
In 2016, as we watched the Trudeau government “make like a pretzel while attempting to court the hard men of Beijing,” we asked whether “Canada [was] caving into China’s demands,” and whether the Trudeau government was “clueless as to the brutal nature of the regime it is dealing with.”
In 2017, as the government bid for a free-trade accord with China, and China started upping its demands, we wrote that Ottawa “did not appear to be sufficiently aware of the potential dangers and downsides.” And we asked, not for the first or last time: “Does the Trudeau government, and the Prime Minister in particular, appreciate who they are dealing with?”
A few months later, after Mr. Trudeau went to China seeking that free-trade deal but was snubbed by his hosts, we wrote that this failure would “come to be seen as less of an embarrassment, and more of a blessing.”
And that was before Canada arrested a Chinese executive on an American extradition warrant, and China retaliated by turning two Canadians into hostages. “The case of Meng Wanzhou has torpedoed the Trudeau government’s China policy,” we wrote in late 2018. “At the same time, it has also sunk China’s Canada policy. Call it a win-win.”
“It’s never pleasant to discover the gap between one’s wishes and objective reality, but it is the beginning of the path to wisdom. The Trudeau government is being forced to wise up about the nature of the People’s Republic of China.”
A year later, in December of 2019, with the Two Michaels still behind bars, we wrote that “Beijing has spent the last year giving Canada a special education in how it sees our not-at-all special relationship. We should be thankful for the lessons. The Trudeau government, and the entire political and business establishment, must study them carefully. It may allow this country to finally get over its China delusions.”
The Trudeau government has since made progress on getting over those delusions, and let us give thanks for that. But it’s still a few steps short of the end of its 12-step program.
This week brought news that, according to information obtained by Global News, the PM was given an intelligence report last January – that’s nearly a year ago – detailing extensive Chinese meddling in the 2019 Canadian election. There are also credible reports of Beijing meddling in the 2021 election, in particular targeting China-critical Conservatives. What has the Trudeau government done about that? So far, nothing. (The Globe & Mail)