The goals of Canada's foreign policy with China are to promote Canada's prosperity through trade and investment and the intake of high-quality Chinese immigrants. And to encourage China to fulfil its multilateral treaty obligations to the UN, WTO and other transnational bodies in areas of security, human rights, environment, intellectual property rights and myriad other aspects. All of Canada's federal political parties are in accord that these define Canada's national interest in China.
Over the past decade there have been increasing indications that Canada's China policy has been falling short. Canada's share of China's import market has been declining relative to other nations such as Australia, the UK, France and the United States. In some years our imports to China have declined in absolute terms. While high commodity prices have improved our trade statistics, Canada has not been selling greater volumes of raw materials into China. But our trade deficit with China has grown at a very high rate. Year by year, the Canadian economy becomes more and more dependent on Chinese inputs, including investment in Canada, and Canada is affected by China's very large foreign currency reserves including major holdings in U.S. dollars. At the same time numbers of Chinese citizens applying to enter Canada have been declining. There is also dissatisfaction with China's implementation of international obligations to free trade and market access, intellectual property protection, the environment, and China's commitment to uphold the principles of the International Declaration on Human Rights and associated UN Covenants, most of which the Chinese Government has ratified.
A reasonable hypothesis to explain Canada's relative foreign policy failings with regard to China could be that as China has been transforming rapidly in all aspects of economy and society that Canada's approach to China has been relatively stagnant and so our China programming less and less relevant to Chinese conditions and less and less effective in fulfilling Canada's interest in China. For that reason it would be worthwhile doing a comparative study of Australia, the UK, France and the United States' China policy to see how Canada's China policy fares against that of nations with similar interests in China.
More specifically examining Canada-China bilateral relations as structured by DFAIT into functional areas, the following research issues can be raised:
Political and Economic Relations: Is Canada's policy of rotating diplomats across regions and across areas of speciality working at cross purposes to Canada's need to have sophisticated Canada-specific political and economic analyses at the disposal of Government? Is Canada's political engagement with China on human rights able to be effective? Can Canada be as effective as other nations who encourage specialization and a career pattern that would alternate between the China desk at home and Mandarin-speaking postings abroad?
Trade: Do our trade commissioners have the resources and expertise to fulfil their mandate? Is the Canada-China Business Council (currently headed by a former Canadian Minister of International Trade) able to adequately supplement the Embassy Trade Section? Should we be pursuing a free trade deal with China along the lines of Australia's?
Immigration: Is the process of application to travel to Canada perceived as less efficient and more humiliating than applications to other nations? Are the criteria for selection across categories leading to higher rejection rate than to other comparable countries? Can Canada address concerns of Chinese authorities with regard to refugee determination processes to allow for "Approved Destination Status" which would lead to massive increase in Chinese tourism to Canada?
Development: Presently Canada's bilateral development program is overseen by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and is limited to two areas; human rights, good governance and democratic development; and environmental sustainability. The Government of Canada plans to set up a Canadian Institute for Democracy in 2009 that, according to the report on Democratic Development tabled by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in June of last year, will encourage more people-to-people (via Canadian NGOs) contact. Is the CIDA program in China effective?
Culture: Does Canada's educational cultural and public affairs programming in China serve Canadian interests effectively?
The objective of this study is to provide policy advice on how to effectively realize Canada's interests in Canada's relations with China. The methodology would be first of all to survey existing literature on Canada's foreign policy to China and compare with Australia, the UK, France and the United States' China policy. This literature is rather weak, so I would use the same methodology as for my earlier report on human rights programming,which would be to meet with stakeholders in the Chinese Communist Party and Government as well as with senior diplomats of the embassies in Beijing of the nations being examined. Then to meet with stakeholders and senior government and opposition party people in Ottawa.
Basd on my earlier report's reception, I anticipate that this report would be influential in Canada and abroad.