Monday, August 11, 2008

Canada-China Relations Then and Now

My good friend, Wenran Jiang of the University of Alberta has put forth that Canada-China relations are presently at their lowest point since Canada established diplomatic relations with China in October 1970. I am not sure what criteria Wenran is using to assess this. To me it is is hard to square with the impact that the pervasive xenophobia of the Chinese régime of the 1970s had on Canadian interests in the PRC in the 1970s. In those days Canada was really constrained in what we could do in China. For example:
Political: we had very limited access to Chinese citizens and very little access to Chinese publications due to the restrictive laws and regulations of that time. Canadian reporters could be expelled peremptorily for very gentle truth telling about the negative side of the Cultural Revolution.
Immigration: we had a lot of trouble getting the Chinese authorities to implement our family Reunification Program. Canadians with valid reasons for wanting to enter China were usually denied visas.
Trade: we could not get fair access to the Chinese market, except for some grains, minerals and newsprint. The non-market currency exchange rate made Canadian products very expensive in China.
Culture: we could do virtually no public diplomacy
Development: we were not allowed to do CIDA projects despite China's great need due to the pervasive poverty in China in those years.
And so it goes.

Essentially the context of China under Maoist revolution was so completely different that there is no valid basis for comparison.

No comments: