In 1949, Mao Zedong’s civil war victory on the mainland led to a break in relations between China and the free world that lasted for more than 20 years.
In 1970, it was Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau who took a leading role in an international movement to recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and establish normal diplomatic relations with the communist regime in Beijing. At the same time, Canada suspended diplomatic relations with the Republic of China in Taiwan.
Mid-October marked the 50th anniversary of Canada’s renewal of diplomatic relations with the “People’s Republic,” but under present circumstances, the occasion passed without much call for dancing in the streets of Ottawa.
Western Leaders Led Movement to Recognize PRC
From the 1970s onward, Western progressives from government state departments, prestigious universities, international policy institutes, and United Nations agencies managed either to deliberately overlook or naively misread the mission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
On July 15, 1971, following the example of the Trudeau government, Republican President Richard Nixon surprised the world by announcing he would travel to the PRC the following year.
Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972 opened the free world to images of communist China filled with smiling children and happy workers. The American president’s initiative led to more regular connections with Beijing. In 1979, the United States and China reestablished diplomatic relations and signed a bilateral agreement that gave rise to rapid growth of trade between the two nations.
Two decades later, Democratic President Bill Clinton pushed Congress to approve a U.S.–China trade agreement and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, claiming that more trade with China would advance the economic interests of the United States and her partners in the free world.
Deals With the Devil Seldom End Well
But deals with the devil seldom end well. Over several decades, our retreat from the policy of “containing” communism has borne bitter fruit for working-class citizens in the West and done little to relieve the people of China from CCP tyranny.
Both sides of our left–right ideological divide overestimated the prospect of intractable Maoists learning to behave in the spirit of trust and reciprocity that is required for mutually profitable trade and peaceful coexistence.
Western liberal-progressives, such as the late Pierre Trudeau, saw a way forward in the spirit of “convergence” between Eastern communist and Western social democratic societies. But communist military regimes viewed the process with a less reciprocal cast of mind. For Marxist dictatorships, convergence meant the steady acquisition of socialist client states and the dismantling of U.S. hegemony throughout the world.
From the 1980s onward, a neoconservative movement looked forward to a “new world order” based on the principles of unrestricted trade and the emergence of a global free-market economy. It imagined an “end of history” that would turn the prediction of the Marxist dialectic on its head and usher in the triumph of democracy and capitalism throughout the world. Despite its best of intentions, it never got there.
For both Canada and the United States, China became our largest trading partner in Asia. But over the years, cheap labor in China led to significant losses of our domestic manufacturing jobs. Middle and working-class North Americans finally concluded that, at least economically, the PRC was “eating our lunch.”
Old Lessons, New Threats From Beijing
Ordinary citizens in Canada and the United States are a pretty patient and tolerant lot. But the PRC’s actions in recent months have become the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Beijing’s willingness to permit international travel from Wuhan in the early stages of the CCP virus contagion was a striking reminder of the disregard for human life and well-being that has characterized communism from the “Red Terror” of the Bolsheviks, to Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” and the Cambodian “Killing Fields” of the Khmer Rouge.”
Moving forward, Canadians and Americans should keep the lessons of Marxist revolutionary history at the forefront of their minds. Wherever socialist regimes have managed to capture a civilization, tyranny has followed.
The atmosphere created around the 50th anniversary of Canada’s renewal of diplomatic relations with China should be a poignant reminder that doing business with Beijing carries increasing levels of risk for free and sovereign nations.
PRC Ambassador Cong Peiwu clearly chose not to view the occasion as a reminder of his country’s longstanding friendly relationship with Canada. Reporting in The Toronto Star, senior Ottawa bureau correspondent Tonda MacCharles wrote, “As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contemplates a long-promised re-set of his Liberal government’s approach to China, he got a clear reminder Thursday of why the Chinese ruling party and its officials are not that interested in what Canada thinks, but very interested in what Canada does.”
MacCharles went on to point out that Beijing’s man bluntly warned Ottawa that offering political asylum to Hong Kong dissidents would risk endangering the safety of some 300,000 Canadian citizens who currently live there. In light of Beijing’s recent crackdown on Hong Kong, the implications for Canada were clear. Do as we say or there will be human consequences.
It’s worth noting that similar threats have been aimed at the United States and other free nations. Shortly after the anniversary incident in Ottawa, The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, reported that the Chinese regime had allegedly told Washington it may detain Americans in China in response to the Justice Department’s prosecution of Chinese military-affiliated scholars operating in the United States.
The Journal also cited a U.S. travel advisory warning that Beijing uses “arbitrary and wrongful detentions” and exit bans on U.S. citizens and others “to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments.” Xi Jinping has clearly distanced himself from his more moderate predecessors and asserted permanent control over a neo-Maoist regime.
Steadfast Resistance to Tyranny Is Seldom Futile
Despite these developments, there are factions within China and forces abroad that seek to hold Xi accountable, and history has demonstrated that the pinnacle of dictatorial power can also be the birthplace of its demise. Beijing is presently growing bolder, but the Chinese people are not the “Borg,” and resistance to the CCP shouldn’t be viewed as futile.
In a new Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) paper (pdf), two well-qualified foreign policy strategists—University of Alberta China Institute fellow Andrew Pickford and Canadian Global Affairs Institute scholar Jeffrey F. Collins—strongly recommend that Canada re-imagine its relationship with the PRC.
The authors of the paper pointed directly to China’s “mounting coercive and destabilizing activities” toward Canada’s national security, sovereignty, and the rules-based international order.
An MLI outline of the study notes that “in China’s stated plans to ‘create a new global power structure by 2049,’ Canada is seen as a soft target for Beijing’s ambitions in North America.” The institute’s summary goes on to say: “It is therefore imperative for Canada to develop a strategy which takes seriously the threats posed by the PRC. Canada can no longer adopt foreign policies that are agnostic to the PRC, particularly given how the Chinese regime’s political, social, and economic institutions are so incompatible with our own.”
Pickford and Collins also recommended several actions to counter Beijing’s abusive foreign policy initiatives. These included developing a bipartisan consensus on strategy toward China, banning Huawei from Canada’s 5G network, deepening trade ties with Taiwan, coordinating a multilateral approach to combat economic coercion, improving Canada’s defense capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, updating foreign investment rules, and working to build a closer defensive alliance with countries such as the United States, India, Australia, and Japan.
A Watershed Year for Security of Free World
The setback for world communism brought on by the collapse of the USSR in 1989 lulled Western democracies into a blissful false sense of security. Even the murderous crushing of dissident Chinese citizens at Tiananmen Square in that same year produced little lasting apprehension among our political intelligentsia. In 1995, the PRC was rewarded for its murderous behavior with full membership in the World Trade Organization. In the winter of 2020, we continue to tolerate Beijing’s global ambitions at our own peril.
But the real watershed moment for the security of free nations looms ahead in the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election. Effective resistance to Beijing’s totalitarian temptations won’t come from the CCP’s ideological cousins in the present U.S. Democratic Party, and the go-along, to get-along—and get rich—disposition of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is exactly what Xi is anticipating.
William Brooks is a Montreal writer and educator. He currently serves as editor of “The Civil Conversation” for Canada’s Civitas Society and is an Epoch Times contributor.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.