The Chinese Regime’s ‘Elite Capture’ in Canada

July 20, 2020 Updated: July 20, 2020


Members of the Chinese Communist Party have a rather distinguished repertoire as dedicated propagandists. There are many laughable maxims they use to push their narrative of global order. Perhaps at its most absurd and diabolical, any criticism of their actions in Hong Kong or elsewhere is usually dismissed as intervention into China’s “internal affairs.” Which is interesting given the degree to which the CCP has shamelessly tried to penetrate other societies, with Canada being a favourable place for subversion because of the ease with which it can be achieved through the sinister phenomenon known as “elite capture.”

Elite capture is simply the effort by Beijing to curry favour with highly placed members of the political, business, or cultural class in other countries to entrench its influence. This is usually done through offering lucrative financial deals in exchange for the elite’s spine, as they’re required to essentially toe the regime’s propaganda line on matters of diplomacy and governance. It has been a subject of acute concern for the Canadian intelligence community over the last few decades.

Project Sidewinder, the explosive 1997 report jointly prepared by the Canada Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP, alleged that the CCP had set up an intricate network with criminal gangs and business tycoons to hold sway over politicians, launder money, smuggle drugs, and commit various acts of espionage, while investing in multiple sectors of the Canadian economy. Affirming the connection between Chinese business and the CCP, the report concluded that “China remains one of the greatest ongoing threats to Canada’s national security and Canadian industry.”

Although the report recommended further investigations into Chinese influence in Canada, it was dismissed by politicians, with the Security Intelligence Review Committee finding it to be “deeply flawed and unpersuasive.” In the years following, the government under Jean Chretien’s Liberals continued to pursue the China dream, embarking on trade deals and the integration of Beijing into the World Trade Organization, despite intelligence officials continuing to deliver similar analyses of Beijing’s activities.

“Claws of the Panda” author Jonathan Manthorpe contended that the fatal flaw of the Sidewinder report was its myopic focus on criminal activity, which took attention from the legitimacy of its broader analysis of the Chinese regime’s conduct in Canada. He’s probably right, as intelligence officials and others have come out again recently making the same arguments, evincing a problem that has gone unchecked for too long but is now unavoidable. Former ambassador to China David Mulroney told Global News reporter Sam Cooper on June 24 that there are “people a lot more senior than I was in government, and they have some serious business links with China.”

“China is very willing to weaponize trade and investment to compel people to say what they want them to say,” he said.

The issue of Chinese influence in Canada should be closer to the centre of our public debate given that globalization has done much to decimate the concepts of sovereignty and national loyalty. Politicians often tend to think of themselves more as “global citizens” rather than a representatives of a particular nation and citizenry that they’re obligated to. And as public sentiment becomes more in favour of decoupling or distancing from China, the obligations forced onto those under Beijing’s spell pose a serious obstacle to moving beyond outdated, self-defeating policies.

Relevant to this is Article 38 of Hong Kong’s new national security law, which makes it quite clear that foreigners and Hongkongers alike could be subjected to Beijing’s despotic judgments on dissent. “This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region,” it states. As this could apply to politicians and businesses whose calculus is informed by their relationship with the CCP, there is incentive for them to give in to this clear intimidation of critics to preserve the status quo, much to the detriment of the citizens and democratic order of their own countries.

Article 38 is a perfect manifestation of the CCP’s foreign policy vision, with its underlying intent to “control the narrative” and exploit the economic advantages of China. “Peaceful development” under the Party’s stewardship challenges the liberal order and redefines it in China’s image by naturally attracting the world to Chinese influence.

Many in Ottawa believe in the inevitability of globalization, which compels them to fall for this approach and China’s chimeric appeal to “common economic interests.” Helping this along are organizations like the Canada-China Business Council, which has done much to facilitate our troubles with its servility toward Chinese investors and its members’ continued advocacy for an appeasement policy toward the CCP.

The evidence has become overwhelming that Beijing’s elite capture problem isn’t illusory, and something needs to be done about it. Canada’s politicians should revisit our laws and processes, similar to what Australia and the United States have done, and consider how they can better reflect the urgent need for more transparency. Any justifications to the effect that entanglement with Beijing is for the good of Canada’s interests ring hollow, as it’s apparent that the only people who continue to benefit from it are a group of well-connected elites.

In our confrontation with what is now the gravest security threat to the free world, it would help if these elites began considering their obligations to Canada rather than to China.

Shane Miller is a political writer based in London, Ontario. Follow him at @Miller_Shane94.

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