Since the onset of the pandemic that swiftly put the Chinese Communist Party on the defensive, the regime has been steadily upping the ante in its campaign to present itself as the true agent of peace and harmony. Xi Jinping’s Sept. 23 speech to the UN General Assembly listed off the familiar CCP “desire” for a utopic world order based on community and diversity. The propaganda debunks itself.
“We should see each other as members of the same big family, pursue win-win cooperation, and rise above ideological disputes and do not fall into the trap of the ‘clash of civilizations,’” Xi said. “More importantly, we should respect a country’s independent development path and model. The world is diverse in nature, and we should turn this diversity into a constant source of inspiration driving human advancement.”
The speech sought to paint a rosy picture of the CCP’s vision for the world, but nobody who knows better believes it, as the mask has been torn off by its actions amid the pandemic, leading to the regime being increasingly isolated. Countries regarded as a prime target for wolf warrior diplomacy have been indicating to the CCP that its desperate attempts at intimidation are ineffective.
In Canada, there have been significant signs of a toughening stance toward Beijing—mostly on the part of the Opposition, but recently there seems to be a shift in Ottawa’s soft approach as well, with the prime minister and members of his cabinet speaking more forcefully on China than in the past.
Last week, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights issued a statement declaring that the CCP’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region constitutes a genocide and warrants action. Unsurprisingly, Zhao Lijan, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, condemned the report as being “full of lies and disinformation” and “blatant interference into China’s internal affairs” that could further damage Canada-China relations.
This was preceded by yet another outburst, in which Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu warned Canada not to take in Hongkongers fleeing the city due to the imposition of Beijing’s national security law, and making a veiled threat regarding the 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong and Canadian companies operating there.
Cong’s tongue-lashing prompted a retort from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said Canada will continue to “stand up loudly for human rights … whether it’s talking about the very concerning situation in Hong Kong, whether it’s calling out China for its coercive diplomacy.”
These incidents didn’t stop Foreign Minister Francois Philippe Champagne from issuing a statement marking the anniversary of the establishment of relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 13. But the statement did include criticism directed at China. Champagne said the arbitrary detention by Beijing of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor is “unacceptable,” and that the “use of coercive diplomacy causes Canada to re-examine its approach, with a focus on multilateral cooperation.” Whether Ottawa will follow through with a tougher stance on China or return to the status quo—such as when members of Trudeau’s cabinet praised China’s handling of the pandemic—remains to be seen.
In the case of Australia, it has long depended for its prosperity on its economic relationship with the China, one of the leading investors in the country. Vital sectors such as academia and tourism rely much on this investment. Trade-wise, the Chinese market has also been vital, with China making up a third of Australian exports last year. Economic imperatives notwithstanding, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been willing to sacrifice much to safeguard Australian security.
Australia has been one of the leading voices calling for an international inquiry into Beijing’s initial management of the pandemic, to which the regime has responded by imposing restrictions of Australian products and cautioning its citizens against travelling to Australia because of its racism. Recently, China’s ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye compared Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz to Nazi propaganda czar Joseph Goebbels in response to criticisms Abetz made during a hearing on a proposed bill that could lead to cancelling China’s Belt and Road initiatives in the country.
There has been a downturn of Beijing’s relations with Europe since the pandemic as well. The Czech Republic has been particularly defiant, with multiple members of its political class having proudly repudiated Beijing. When Milos Vystrcil, the president of the Czech Senate, made an official trip to Taiwan in late August to promote closer ties, it elicited a scathing response from Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, who said Vystrcil would “pay a heavy price for his short-sighted behaviour and political opportunism.”
The city government in Prague has been pursuing its own course on Beijing, establishing a sister-city relationship with Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib explained his recalcitrant position and advised Canada to be aware that China is “not a reliable partner” and shouldn’t be allowed to “unilaterally dictate the rules,” elaborating that Beijing uses promises of investment that never materialize to pressure governments into submission.
The recognition of Beijing’s true nature by these and other countries—particularly the United States, which has taken numerous measures to “decouple” from China—has provided opportunity for alliances to hasten the regime’s isolation.
The Australian and Indian governments have both forfeited any concerns about provoking Beijing’s hostility and have been warming to each other more openly. This is discernible in the renewed enthusiasm for the Quadrilateral Initiative, a strategic alliance in the Pacific between the United States, India, Australia, and Japan, which Beijing has derided as an “exclusive clique.” Deepened integration between the Australian and Indian militaries is also in the works.
If Ottawa capitalizes on this momentum and shifts its outlook to one more closely resembling what Beijing likes to call Washington’s “Cold War mentality”—which would be more exclusionary and restrictive of Beijing’s presence—the regime will be deprived of one of the most fruitful bases for its subversive agenda.
A world united in rejecting the CCP’s belligerent activities will have dire implications for a ruthless regime that has for too long resorted any measures necessary in its push for global domination. The time has come for all countries that have engaged with the CCP to take on this challenge.