OTTAWA—Canada’s highly romanticized belief that China’s ruling communist regime can be reformed has not served it well. That’s one of the many takeaways from Jonathan Manthorpe’s book “Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in China.”
At its national book launch hosted by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute public policy think tank on Feb. 26, the journalist of 40 years explained that Canadians—politicians, business people, and ordinary citizens alike—need to understand that the rule of law does not apply in China; the rule of law is a threat to the one-party state.
“Canada is never going to change China,” wrote Manthorpe. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s progressive agenda including gender equality and environmental reforms went over like a lead balloon in his Nov. 2017 visit.
Canada should continue to engage China, but it could be steamrolled if it doesn’t rework its approach, says Manthorpe. The problematic belief that Canada could change China with Canadian values remains deeply embedded even today.
Canada became one of the first western countries to establish diplomatic relations with communist China when former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau visited in 1970. His son has maintained that connection, naming one of the regime’s most vocal supporters, Peter Harder, former president of the Canada China Business Council, as the government representative in the Senate.
Decades later, concerns of intellectual property theft have plagued Canada’s academic and business relations with China.
China’s technological revolution has relied heavily on acquiring foreign technologies. Nortel’s demise roughly coincided with Huawei’s ascension. Brian Shields, a former senior security adviser at Nortel, previously told NTD Television that sophisticated and persistent hacking from Chinese state actors was a major factor in Nortel’s fall.
Manthorpe doubts Canada can have anything more than a basic WTO trade relationship with China. When new initiatives are put forward, he hopes the first question Canadians will ask is: “What benefit to Canada and Canadians can we honestly, realistically expect from the deal?”
There is very little common ground—global diplomacy, civic values, mutual security agreements—between Canada and China compared to other Asian countries like Japan and South Korea.
“Our relations with the PRC [People’s Republic of China] are based solely on trade so when things go wrong, we have no other buffers in the relationships,” he said.
Beijing has dangled access to the massive Chinese market to eager Canadian businesses for decades but Manthorpe pointed out it is not a market of 1.3 billion. It is actually many much smaller markets of 50 million—one example of how business people struggle to understand the politics and culture of China.
Manthorpe said the recent arrest of Huawei’s CFO and Beijing’s subsequent detention of two Canadians and sentencing of a third to death “exposed the fundamental incompatibility of our values.” It is a critical time for the Sino-Canadian relationship.
Canada has a decision to make regarding Huawei and the construction of 5G infrastructure. But, as it relates to Canada’s allies in the Five Eyes network, “it’s a pretty important moment in the history of shared intelligence,” Manthorpe said.
If Canada concurs with Great Britain that the Huawei risk is manageable—as opposed to the United States, Australia, and New Zealand—then it could mean the end of the Five Eyes, says Manthorpe. The United States could stop sharing sensitive information with Canada.
“Will politicians decide keeping Five Eyes is more important than getting cheap switches from Huawei?” he asked.
‘Demonstration of Anxiety’
Beijing is trying to create political legitimacy while maintaining the solid appearance of an authoritarian state. But such regimes are not as solid as they appear, says Manthorpe.
“They are brittle—you never know when a tap in the right place will make them collapse,” Manthorpe said.
With Chinese president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive, huge amounts of capital are flowing out of China. Canada is one place it is settling. Manthorpe said Canada should examine why that is.
“We’re importing corruption,” he said. Canada has no publicly available registries of beneficial owners (true owners) of properties and companies.
Campaign of Intimidation
The book identifies five “poisonous groups” that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aims to terrorize and silence: Tibetans, Uyghurs of the Xinjiang autonomous region, Taiwan, democracy protestors, and practitioners of the Falun Gong meditation discipline.
Terror comes in the form of harassing phone calls, hate propaganda, monitoring, intimidation, and bullying of those Canadians visiting China with ties to these groups.
Anastasia Lin, who spoke at Manthorpe’s book launch, was a victim of this harassment. She was born in China and lived there for 13 years before coming to Canada. After her emigration she realized she had been indoctrinated all her life.
“I was raised in a dictatorship country—our values, the true human spirit was stifled,” she said.
Lin was chosen as Miss World Canada in 2015 and brought to light the human rights violations in her native country. As a result, her father in China was threatened.
As Lin has travelled the world raising the issue of human rights in China, she has met many Chinese who conform to the CCP’s will so that their families in China will be safe. Her story provides a typical example, says Manthorpe, of how the CCP tries to silence dissident voices in Canada.
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