Friday, August 16, 2019


OTTAWA, ON (August 16, 2019): The federal election is a little over two months away, and its outcome remains highly uncertain. Irrespective of whichever political party wins, the new government faces the challenging work of remaking Canada-China relations, which has reached an all-time low following China’s hostage diplomacy and use of economic coercion in response to the arrest by Canadian authorities of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

In the latest entry in MLI’s “A Mandate for Canada” series, Senior Fellow Charles Burton makes the case for a measured, principled, and forward-looking China strategy.

Titled Remaking Canada's China strategy: A new direction that puts Canadian interests first, the paper details the shortcomings of the country’s past approach to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), outlining the need for a new strategy that better serves Canada’s national interests and is more complementary to that of our key allies.

Over the past more than 25 years, both Liberal and Conservative governments have approached China based on an implied quid pro quo. As Burton notes, “If Canada showed ‘friendship’ to the PRC regime by acceding to demands allowing China to further its economic and geostrategic interests in Canada, then China would be amenable to Canadian approaches on social issues such as human rights.”

Underpinning this formulation has been Canadian political naiveté about the purposes and intentions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has persisted into the early years of Justin Trudeau’s government.

Yet it is not through political naiveté alone that Canada had pursued policies highly favourable to the CCP’s interests. Equally important has been the CCP’s United Front Work Department and its highly effective, decades-long program of Canadian élite capture.

According to Burton, “This rosy view of China relations has been supported by major Canadian business interests who benefit from lucrative interactions with Chinese Communist state commercial networks.”

It is these interests, as opposed to issues of national security or Canadian principles and values, that should be at the centre of Canada’s China policy. Fortunately, there are growing signs that this captured élite foreign policy consensus is beginning to fray.

“China’s very strong retaliatory measures to pressure Canada to release a senior member of the regime – Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, detained under a US extradition request – has shattered any illusions about any moral obligation the PRC feels in response to Canada’s many decades of asymmetrical acts of ‘friendship.’”

The author offers a new direction in Canada’s China strategy – one that takes into consideration the need to safeguard Canadian security, promote Canadian prosperity, and project Canadian values. Key elements of this new strategy include:

  • Cracking down on harassing, coercive, corrupt, and covert activities by agents of the Chinese state against anyone, regardless of citizenship, in Canada.
  • Rejecting PRC regime pressure for us to accept the Huawei bid to install 5G technology
  • Condemning police excesses in Hong Kong, calling for an independent inquiry on their excessive use of force, and stating clearly that any PAP (People's Armed Police) crackdown in Hong Kong would carry serious consequences.
  • Considering the use of Magnitsky Law against officials of the People’s Republic of China’s Communist Party (or officials from Hong Kong), especially if there is a crackdown in Hong Kong.
  • Ending government collaboration in United Front Work Department activities such as Parliamentary exchanges that attempt to establish a moral equivalence between liberal democratic institutions and the CCP’s puppet sham civil institutions.
  • Requiring transparency for media and educational institutions that receive PRC regime funding.
  • Condemning Chinese human rights abuses and concomitantly supporting agents of progressive change in China.

Canada needs to assert comprehensively its national interests in its China strategy, even if doing so will lead to pushback from the PRC and its supporters in Canada. As Burton concludes, “A measured and principled approach to China is ultimately of the greatest sustained benefit to Canada, Canada’s like-minded allies, and, indeed, ultimately to China itself.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Burton: Xi Jinping may want to rule the world, but he has problems at home, too

Perhaps Mr. Xi has done the world a favour by exposing the true nature of the Communist Party’s long-range intentions, but as American commentator Gordon Chang has observed, ultimately his is “a militant, one-person regime that feels surrounded and threatened.”

A “surrounded and threatened” China feeling under siege does not bode well for making a rational conciliatory response to Hong Kong’s unrest. It also does not bode well for the future of Canada-China relations or for global peace. China desperately needs to find a way out of its political conundrum before it’s too late – for all involved.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Lary and Burton: Exiled professor Jerome Ch’en taught students about his beloved homeland, China

Jerome Ch’en’s long life was shaped by the momentous historic events in China over the past century, and the insights he gained as a witness to those events informed his work as an eminent historian and author. Prof. Ch’en, who died last month, was one of the last survivors of a gifted generation of Chinese intellectuals who were born into a traditional society, came of age in warfare and either were exiled or remained in China to face persecution. They were steeped in both the Chinese and Western traditions. Prof. Ch’en’s deep knowledge of Chinese culture co-existed with his profound understanding of Western political and economic thought.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Burton: How Xi trumped Trump at the G20 summit (Opinion piece in the Globe and Mail)

How Xi trumped Trump at the G20 summit

While China’s long-term preparations for its new cold war confrontation with the U.S. continue apace, Mr. Trump’s infatuation of autocratic dictators – of which Mr. Xi is primus inter pares – shows no signs of abating. At the press conference following their meeting, Mr. Trump told a Chinese reporter that Mr. Xi is “a brilliant leader. He’s a brilliant man. You know better than I, he is probably considered to be one of the great leaders of 200 years in China.”

There was no mention of Mr. Xi’s leadership over Chinese Communist Party policies which have incarcerated 3 million Uyghurs (the figure used by the U.S. State Department) under harsh conditions in cultural genocide camps. Mr. Trump indicated that Hong Kong also didn’t come up.

In their meeting, Mr. Xi made shrewd inroads, deferring new tariffs on US$300 billion worth of exports to the U.S. with the usual promises of “dialogue,” vague commitments to co-operate on the threats of Iran and North Korea, and talk of large purchases of U.S. agricultural and other goods.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, was agreeing to reconsider security restrictions on Chinese researchers entering the U.S., and to end the current ban on American company sales to Huawei.

PRC Reference News characterization of this opinion piece:

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Burton: China, U.S., Canada: trade and political disputes and world domination (interview)

Burton: China, U.S., Canada: trade and political disputes and world domination (interview)

In an article he wrote to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, he said, “Currently, there is no coherent multi-national strategy against Chinese influence operations. The less we respond to it in any substantive way, the more China is emboldened in its practice of global disruption.

China’s remaking of the global rules is making the world safe for autocracy, tacitly demanding that Canada passively surrender our values to an authoritarian state. Canada should be uniting with our allies in a coordinated stand for political justice and fair economic engagement with China. But this requires more than allocating resources and government expenditure. The political will has to be there”.