Reviving Parliament’s Special China Committee Vital to Canada’s National Interests

December 20, 2021 Updated: December 20, 2021

Commentary

The recent news that the Conservative Party has decided not to launch a bid to revive the special committee on Canada-China relations is a great disappointment. This is especially so as Beijing’s recent conduct continues to demonstrate the regime’s unpredictability—Canada’s response to which would be immensely aided by the discussions had by those on the committee.

Explaining the curious decision, Conservative foreign-affairs critic Michael Chong told the Globe and Mail it does not reflect a shift in tone by the Conservatives on the China question, but is more a consequence of resource constraints, as new committees on Afghanistan and scientific research have been created since the election.

Seeing as the Conservatives are still in the post-mortem phase of their election loss and desperately attempting to figure out what changes they need to make to become more electable, one can’t help but sense some hesitancy to revive the committee, given the arguments from some corners that the Tories’ hawkishness on China alienated some of their voters in Chinese communities. Given the importance of Canada-China relations, the idea that there aren’t enough resources for that committee but there are for other “pressing issues” simply seems nonsensical.

Wenran Jiang, an academic in Canada who can always be counted on to echo Beijing’s propaganda talking points to the press, told the Globe that many Chinese Canadians who were conservative voters “were very disturbed by the party’s extreme anti-China positions and decided either to sit out or to vote for the Liberals.”

Variations of this line were routinely used in a Beijing-affiliated disinformation campaign during the election, as a way to conflate opposition to the communist regime and its policies with targeting the Chinese community. In a few ridings, there is evidence that these efforts might have been successful in yielding results favourable to Beijing’s interests. The case of Kenny Chiu, the Conservative MP who lost his seat in the Steveston-Richmond riding, is a testament to this. His campaign was derailed by ridiculous accusations of being “anti-Chinese” for advocating policies that would protect Canada, and indeed, the Chinese and Hong Kong diaspora in Canada, from Beijing’s espionage.

Unfortunately, this has seemed to haunt the Conservative psyche since the election, as figures within the party have bought into this farcical idea that its China hawkishness did more to alienate than attract voters. Many have fretted over the Party’s supposed failure to communicate with their voters, particularly on making it clear that their gripe is with the Chinese Communist Party rather than Chinese people as a whole. This is nonsense, given the tiresome lengths to which the Conservative foreign policy platform and speeches already went to make this point quite plain to the public.

Furthermore, polls conducted within the last year have consistently indicated that the Canadian public can see this difference and desire a principled policy toward China. A poll done by Nanos in October following the release of the two Michaels, for example, showed that 76 percent of those surveyed agreed that Canada should restrict or ban Huawei from participating in our 5G network. Majorities also said they were opposed to deepening business ties with China and that any trade deals should be delayed, while 87 percent said Canada should support allies such as the United States, Britain, and Australia in their efforts to confront China.

Canadians have long sought a change on China and desire principled leadership to bring this about. The work done by the committee could be a critical piece to this. The previous committee, formed two years ago after the Bloc and NDP supported a Conservative motion, gave its members opportunities to tackle issues that would usually not get the time of day during question period. The members did much to expose and investigate the CCP’s infiltration of Canadian institutions, particularly regarding the episode involving the two Chinese-born scientists at the National Virology Lab in Winnipeg. Testimonies from government officials such as New Brunswick’s Education Minister Dominic Cardy have also clarified the threat posed by Chinese entities such as the Confucius Institute and why we should take necessary measures to rid Canadian schools of them.

The committee would play a pivotal role in our ongoing debates about how to address the Uyghur genocide, persecution of different groups including the Falun Gong and Tibetans, destruction of democracy in Hong Kong, attacks on the sovereignty of Taiwan, and tackle Beijing’s aggression in areas such as the South China Sea.

The space it created allowed parliamentarians to have a much more sophisticated debate about Canadian interests and how our thinking about foreign policy should evolve in the face of China’s rise.

Simply put, it is in Canadians’ best interests that this committee be revived, and Canada’s opposition parties should not be afraid to do so.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Shane Miller
Shane Miller is a political writer based in London, Ontario.