Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Message from a Friend in Ottawa on How He Learnt that My Report on Canada-China "Must Be Good"

"I am just sending you a brief congratulatory note on your CIC report on Canada-China relations. I think this is by far the most principled statement on Canada-China relations that I have seen so far. They criticized it so much at DFAIT yesterday that I knew it must be good. I subsequently read it for myself. You have done the right thing."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Translation of a Mainland Chinese Commentary on My Report and My Response to It

Canadian Think Tank Recommends that the Government Readjust Its China Strategy
(literal translation by Charles Burton of 加拿大智库:建议政府重新调整对华战略 which can be found at:
or http://tinyurl.com/CIC-Report and many other sites on the Internet in China)

by Yan Hong (Vancouver)
Responding to the stalemate in Canada-China relations of the past few years, the long established Canadian foreign policy think tank, the International Council, founded in in 1928, recently produced a report on China policy. It was written by an expert in the think tank, Charles Burton. It is entitled "Reassessment of Canada's Interests in China and Renewal of Canada's China Policy Options." This report is divided into the following sections: Introduction; Trade and Investment; Immigration and Consular Affairs; Development and Human Rights; Political and Economic Relations; Taiwan, Tibet, Uyghur, Mongolian Issues and Falun Gong Issues; Public Diplomacy; Conclusion. The main points of the report are as follows:
1. The report points out that Canada is currently losing market share in China. It proposes that the Government of Canada clearly articulate a strategy to improve and promote access to the Chinese market by Canadian enterprises. This strategy should put emphasis on the distinctive characteristics of the Chinese market and business culture as well as the comparative advantages that Canada has over other competitors in the Chinese market. Moreover there should be very good coordination between the activities of the various Canadian trade institutions and organizations in China.
2. The report emphasizes that foreign policy toward China needs to move from aid diplomacy to human rights diplomacy. Development projects in the areas of good governance, democratic development and human rights should be engaged in through the Canadian Democracy Foundation. It recommends gradually phasing out the Canadian International Development Agency's Programs in China. Because the previous Canada-China Bilateral Dialogue was not effective, the Government of Canada should put its efforts into encouraging China to abide by the United Nations' Human Rights Covenants.
3. The report puts forth that Canada's China policy-making institutions such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Security Intelligence Service and the Department of National Defence lack "China specialists." It recommends that fluency in Chinese should be the prerequisite for recruitment of civil servants into the various Canadian Government institutions that formulate China policy. This should be measured by a formal language examination. The report recommends reducing the numbers of locally engaged staff working in Canadian consular offices in China. They should be replaced by staff sent out from Canada who have strong Chinese language skills and strong understanding of how Chinese politics functions.
4. The report asserts that it is not enough that the Government of Canada's level of contact with China is limited to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Offices. It should move beyond the sphere of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the various levels of foreign affairs offices to engage Chinese Communist Party Chinese Government policy-making institutions and establish direct contacts with these. The logic behind this is that these organizations have real policy-making functions. The policies that they formulate will impact on Canada's interests in China. The report acknowledges that Canada-China economic relations are asymmetrical. Because Canada lacks importance in China it is difficult to set up a strategic partnership relationship at the Deputy-Minister level. So the report suggests that Canada settle for establishing a mechanism for dialogue with Chinese ministries at rank of director-general and assistant deputy-minister.

To assess this highly strategic report by a Canadian think tank whose mandate is to inform policy formulation, people at different levels will likely have different interpretations of what it says. But one thing can be affirmed, this report will most likely make an impact on the Government of Canada's China policy. Although the Canadian International Council notes that the report does not represent the views of the think tank, according to Professor Burton, the author of the report, the report reflects the perspective of many Canadian scholars and senior officials. In addition, the Canadian International Council has gone to some lengths to promote this report. It is fair to say that this report represents the position and tendencies of the Canadian mainstream élite. So it is worthy of being taken seriously.

Professor Burton is a scholar diplomat who is a braintruster for both the academy and for government. He was a student at China's Fudan University and has served as Counsellor at the Canadian Embassy to China. He is presently a professor of Comparative Politics in the Political Science Department at Brock University. He has studied the politics of China over a long period and has been contracted to write many reports about Chinese affairs for Canada Immigration, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Security Intelligence Service. So his views are not only representative but also authoritative.

Looking at the fundamental tone of the report overall, Professor Burton primarily analyzes Canada-China relations from the perspective of political science. His stance and views and analytical approach are more or less within Canada's traditional framework. But he has a sharp scholarly logical ability and extensive experience and knowledge of Canada-China relations. The viewpoint and strategic recommendations put forth by Professor Burton in his analysis has value for the Government of Canada. There are two points to make about this:
The first is that the the report engenders a sense of crisis. This is that Canada is losing the Chinese market by losing the its competitiveness in the Chinese market. This is an outstanding reality in current Canada-China relations. According to statistics given in the report in 2006, Chinese exports to Canada amounted to $34.5 Canadian dollars while Canadian exports to China amounted to $7.7 billion Canadian dollars. Canada has a trade deficit of $26.8 billion Canadian dollars.. The report indicates that while other G-8 countries have government trade agencies that are very active in China and which have strong coordination between them, the Government of Canada trade agencies in China lack a coordinated approach and the institutions have overlapping reduplicated mandates. The federal government and local governments don't work together. Canadian trade officials are relatively ineffective because they lack knowledge of the unique characteristics of the Chinese market and they lack knowledge of the Chinese business culture. Canadian businessmen in China often are not able to get active support from Canadian Government agencies in China. The report recommends that the Government of Canada change this state of affairs. It urges that the Federal Government and local governments, the western Canadian provinces and the eastern provinces all improve the coordination of their efforts, and become more familiar with the workings of the Chinese market and the unique characteristics of China's business culture. In this way they can create the conditions for Canadian enterprises to expand their share of the Chinese market.
The second is that in the report's section on Public Diplomacy there are some views expressed that are very insightful. Compared to the United States and the European Union, Canada lacks brand identification in China. Italy has Verdi, England has Jane Austen, Germany has Beethoven, the United States has Hollywood. They are able to have huge international cultural influence in China. But what does Canada have? One thing is Norman Bethune, another thing is Dashan. But their influence is limited. They cannot represent the brand of Canada's' international culture. On the contrary, Canada has damaged its reputation in China by offering sanctuary to Lai Changxing and other Chinese law breakers. In addition, Canada mainly relies on diplomats to promote Canadian cultural products. This is not an effective way to go about it. There is no Canadian TV series that has achieved any renown in China. Canadian Studies in China is of rather a low quality. The scholars involved in it are academic "second stringers," unlike the "first stringers" who yearn to apply to the Ford Foundation or apply to the programs of other important nations. Because of this, the report recommends that non-governmental agencies promote cultural exchange between the peoples of Canada and China. On this point Canada should learn from China. China already established five Confucius Institutes. But Canada has taken no comparable measures.
Nevertheless even though this report has points of brilliance, it also has some shortcomings. This is primarily due to a lack of understanding of China and a lack of confidence in people of the Chinese race (华人). First of all, the report ascribes the reasons for Canada losing market in China primarily to policies of the Government of China.. For example to manipulation of the Renminbi Yuan currency, hidden subsidies by the Government to state owned enterprises, weak protection of copyrights, unfair treatment of Canadian enterprises in China, etc. This is not fair. In fact, the degree of openness of the Chinese market is the highest of all the countries in the world. There is considerable preferential treatment for foreign enterprises extended. A large portion of China's share of its own market has been eroded by foreign invested enterprises.
Of course, there is fierce competition in the Chinese market. Anyone who wants to share a piece of that cake has to be fearless in battle like the character Shi Xiu in The Water Margin. But the Canadians just talk a lot and wait for someone to hand it to them on a platter. If Canada had the competitive spirit of the South Koreans, the state of affairs would be a lot different. Canada has a certain attitude of pompous self-importance and sees itself as even more "awesome" then the United States. So Canada undertakes a mission to raise up the banner of of promoting Western values. "Democracy, liberty and freedom" are universal values that definitely need to be advocated. But they should not become bats to beat people with at will. China has achieved enormous accomplishments in its development in recent years. The peoples lives have improved very substantially. International society cannot but see this reality. Even Hilary Clinton when she went to China was very careful in broaching matters that touched on these sorts of sensitive issues. She to the extent possible respected the feelings of her hosts. What is astonishing is that on the one hand Prime Minister Harper refused to attend the Olympic Games and regrettably missed an excellent opportunity to improve Canada-China relations, and on the other hand under his breath quietly implores that China set up a mechanism for a strategic partnership dialogue at the level of deputy-minister. This kind of logic is hard to follow.
Secondly, some of the assertions in the report appear to suggest a lack of trust in people of the Chinese race (华人). For example, the report indicates that the Chinese language facility of the diplomats at the Embassy of Canada to China is low. So they have difficulty in connecting with Chinese people. For this reason the Embassy must engage Chinese citizens locally to work at the Embassy. But because these Chinese people must bear loyalty to their nationality they are very likely to "reveal secrets" to the Government of China and thereby act as "spies." This is perhaps a little too obvious. But there is no evidence for it and it ignores the existence of people in the world who have professional ethics and moral integrity. The report recommends that they be replaced by sending more personnel who have Chinese language skills and other relevant specialized expertise from Canada. People cannot help but ask, so many people immigrate to Canada from China, why can't some of these Chinese people with fluent Chinese and relevant expertise be selected to be sent to work in Canada's representative offices in China? Chinese is their mother tongue after all! The report acknowledges that Chinese is Canada's third major language. Canada advocates human rights and multiculturalism. So why does the report not breathe a single word about people of the Chinese race (华人) becoming involved in government. Why is no suggestion along these lines made. This report has reservations about Canada's people of the Chinese race (华人). It it not about doubts their language ability and technical knowledge. It is about doubts about their degree of loyalty. This is regrettable.

Finally the report indicates that Canada needs to expand the sphere of its China engagement beyond the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Offices. That Canada should have more contact with institutions in the Party and Government who actually have "policy-making power." In this way Canada could seek to better defend Canadian interests. From the Canadian point of view this is appears to be valid, but the report also calls for gradually phasing out the development program of the Canadian International Development Agency in China. This is worthy of discussion. The Canadian International Development Agency has been operating in China for 25 years. It has had a positive impact on China's development. It is an important cord binding together the fragile Canada-China relationship. If Canada is not prepared even to expend this small amount of money, then how can they prattle about promoting a strategy for promoting Canada's commercial interests in China.

On the whole this report systematically and in depth expresses the the sense of urgency that Canadian scholars feel about i,proving Canada-China relations. It demonstrates Canadians' "sincerity." But in comparison to Europe and the United States, this report has hard edges. It is aesthetically insufficiently "delicate." It is grating on the outside and and lacking consistency on the inside. What would happen if the Government of Canada fully adopted the strategy of this report to address current Canada-China relations is readily imagined. In fact Canada-China relations would not improve. Nor would the relationship get any worse.

March 19, 2009

Some comments by me:
1. I am very happy and grateful that my report is gaining so much attention and consideration in China.
2. My experience is that when a commentator accuses me of "lacking understanding of China" it is a sign that the Chinese writer has no reasoned argument to respond to what I have said.
3. I hold that the primary reason for Canada's declining position in the China market is due to Canadian factors. No reason why we could not be doing better than the Australians as Canada is a bigger and more populous country slightly closer to China geographically and with much the same demographic and economic characteristics as Australia. Australia's trade deficit with China is 1.2:1, Canada's is 4:1.
4. I have close friendships with Chinese nationals working at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. I do suggest that we bring more people of Chinese origin into our Foreign Ministry, but I did not mention that we cannot bring in anyone with close family in China due to Canadian security laws that would not allow such people to qualify for security clearance: "family or other close ties to persons living in oppressive or hostile countries" making risk of "acting or being induced to act in a way that constitutes a threat to the security of Canada" by "disclosing or causing to be disclosed in an unauthorized way, classified information." Simply having become a Canadian citizen is not considered sufficient condition for high-level security clearance, sorry to say. So we need to recruit more from Canadians with Taiwan and other non-PRC origins.
5. I do not propose reducing the funding that the Government of Canada allocates for good governance, democratic development and human rights as well as environmental sustainability initiatives in China. I propose that this work cease to be on a government-to-government basis. Britain's Department of International Development has indicated that its programming will cease in China in 2011. Japan cut foreign aid to China in 2005.
6. I am surprised that my argument against Canada adopting a "One China" policy relating to Tibet, Uyghur, Mongolia and Taiwan issues has not been taken up in the Canadian or the Chinese press. I see this as a central content of my report.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Two More Articles on Canada-Relations

Bill Schiller published an analysis piece in the Toronto Star this morning making reference to my recent report and quoting an interview with entitled "Why is Ottawa still bungling the China file?"

The Chinese Communist Party line on Canada-China relations is given in the Beijing Review this week in Fred Edwards "Canadian Cold Front"

Friday, March 06, 2009

Slow Boat to Nowhere?

The Toronto Star published my opinion piece on Canada-China relations this morning (http://www.thestar.com/article/597365) under the title: "Sino-Canadian relations on slow boat to nowhere." I am not sure that I entirely agree with the title of the piece (added by the editor). My view is that the boat is indeed too slow but "nowhere" strikes me as something of an overstatement.

I am grateful to the Toronto Star for giving me the chance to present my views to a large readership in Canada's highest circulation newspaper.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Trade Minister Stockwell Day's Comments on My Report

On reflection I feel badly that DFAIT briefed Stockwell Day in a way that gave him a misimpression of the Chinese language abilities of our diplomats in Beijing. There is some degree of linguistic fraud being perpetuated here. I would really urge that DFAIT use the standardized test the "Chinese Proficiency Test" to measure Chinese language competence in future. China would not send diplomats to Canada unable to read English or French.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Fragment of E-mail to a Friend about My Report on Canada-China Relations

My report was finally released last week. It got media spin in the Globe and Mail as being mainly about spying. The other media interviews I have been doing on CBC TV and various radio all follow this line even though I ardently try and steer it toward the actual content of the report (response by interviewers who have a script of questions prepared by a producer being along the lines of "Yes, and going back to the security aspect . . ."). I am a bit despairing about it. Anyway on the upside in less than a week over 700 copies have been downloaded. I wonder who those 700 people are? I have been getting a lot of supportive e-mails from friends in DFAIT, CIDA and other people in Ottawa and China. No negative feedback received to date.