Wednesday, May 08, 2013

My response to Paul Evans on Canada's China policy published in May issue of Literary Review of Canada

In the April issue of In April Issue of the Literary Review of Canada, Paul Evans published an article on Canada's China policy:

The editor of this publication, Bronwyn Drainie, asked me to write a response which was published in an edited version in the May issue. Here is that text (it is not otherwise available on-line insofar as I am aware).

Re: "Dancing with the Dragon" by Paul Evans (April 2013)

Evans suggests that in Canada "debate has been obsessed with a distinction between pursuing commercial and diplomatic opportunities with China versus promoting human rights . . . our domestic debate still rotates around whether we should be having economic relations with a country run by a Communist Party." Evans further hypothesizes that Canada has adopted a policy stance of "cool politics, warm economics" toward the PRC. 

But his assertions do not stand up to scrutiny. Over the years Canada has adopted a highly consistent approach to relations with China. It is the same one articulated by our 1995 foreign policy statement "Canada and the World" based on "three pillars of diplomacy": the promotion of prosperity and employment; the protection of our security, within a stable global framework; and the projection of Canadian values and culture. 

As to the first pillar, Canada wants fair and reciprocal trading agreements with China. We welcome Chinese investment, but as the Prime Minister made clear in his 2012 press conference announcing Government approval of CNOOC's acquisition of Nexen, Canada will not allow the Chinese state to gain control of Canadian economic resources through full acquisition of Canadian resource companies by Chinese state firms. But we do welcome Chinese state firms to invest in them as minority share holders. 

As to the security aspect, Canada will continue to investigate Chinese state espionage in its economic, political and military aspects including cyber-espionage in Canada and to work in multi-lateral fora to encourage the Chinese regime to follow the norms of responsible global citizenship. 

Finally with regard to the third pillar as the 1995 statement puts it: "Canada is not an island: if the rights of people abroad are not protected, Canadians will ultimately feel the effects at home. They understand that our economic and security interests are served by the widest possible respect for the environment, human rights, participatory government, free markets and the rule of law. Where these are observed, there is a greater prospect of stability and prosperity . . . Their observance, therefore, is both an end in itself and a means to achieving other priority objectives."

There is a strong cross-partisan consensus on how Canada should manage relations with the PRC. After all, even the Dalai Lama's honorary Canadian citizenship was achieved through a unanimous resolution of Parliament. 

Evans' attempts to politicize Canada's China policy just doesn't conform with the facts.

Charles Burton 
Brock University

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