As the world watches the brave people of China rise up against their government, demanding freedom on pain of death, Canada’s government unveiled its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy. It includes a new “clear-eyed understanding” of China.
“China’s rise, enabled by the same international rules and norms that it now increasingly disregards, has had an enormous impact on the Indo-Pacific, and it has ambitions to become the leading power in the region,” the document reads. “China is making large-scale investments to establish its economic influence, diplomatic impact, offensive military capabilities and advanced technologies. China is looking to shape the international order into a more permissive environment for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours.”
The assessment is not wrong, but its use of the present tense is laughable. China has been doing these things for decades, in Canada and around the world. Its Belt and Road Initiative has furthered Chinese economic interests through the construction of massive infrastructure projects in developing countries, often at a cost of major indebtedness. Its Confucius Institutes have spread pro-Chinese Communist Party revisionist history to nine million students at 525 institutes in 146 countries and regions, whitewashing events like the Tiananmen Square uprising and encouraging campuses not to allow speakers like the Dalai Lama.
Furthermore, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, “What I have said many times at this point is we will challenge when we ought to and we will co-operate when we must.” The strategy lists a host of points of “cooperation” with China: “climate change and biodiversity loss, global health and nuclear proliferation. And China’s economy offers significant opportunities for Canadian exporters.”
With China’s vast market, those opportunities might appear limitless, but China’s portion of Canadian trade is not. Seventy-three per cent of our exports go to the United States, less than five per cent to China. Is compromising our national security and democracy worth $19 billion of agricultural goods and raw materials? Instead of growing trade with autocratic China, Canada should pursue increased opportunities with democratic nations, including India, something the strategy does recommend in the form of proposed free trade talks.