Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Prime Minister’s private meetings with China

When CSIS Director Michel Coulombe appeared before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence earlier this year, his briefing notes raised serious concerns about China targeting Canada’s “government officials and systems.”

Now we have news reports emerging that Justin Trudeau attended a cash-for-access event last May at the Toronto mansion of a Chinese-Canadian executive (‘Trudeau attended fundraiser with Chinese billionaires’; Globe and Mail, Nov. 22). Was our own prime minister one of the government officials the CSIS boss was referring to?

Attendees at the Toronto fundraiser reportedly included citizens of the People’s Republic of China, who by Canadian law cannot donate funds to Canadian political parties. Apparently this sufficiently concerned a senior Liberal Party official that photos from the event were anonymously passed to the press in a plain brown envelope.  

The Prime Minister’s official itinerary for May 19 reads “private meetings.” At the private event, the flag of China was displayed alongside that of Canada, and the guest list included senior officials of Chinese state institutions, Chinese billionaires with serious money to invest, and people involved in an application to establish the Wealth One Bank of Canada, whose purpose is given as “to serve Chinese people (huaren).”

Zhang Bin, a Chinese citizen who facilitated a $1-million donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation (including funds to be used to erect a statue of the Prime Minister’s father) was also present.

One consequence of Donald Trump’s election as US president will be more opportunities for China's Communist regime to expand its influence with the Government of Canada. It is very likely that Mr. Trump will enact measures early in his term that will negatively impact Canada’s economy by restricting our access to US markets.  If our economy sputters because of Mr. Trump’s isolationist policy, Ottawa will look hard at other foreign partners to make up for lost growth. Chinese state investment will be waiting, and with their negotiating position much improved thanks to Mr. Trump, Beijing will undoubtedly seek to exact a political price that Canada has until now not been prepared to pay.

What this means is that, to get Chinese state investment, Canada must not “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” (the standard Chinese regime phrase) by standing up for humans rights of people in Hong Kong, Taiwan, ethnic minorities in China and human rights defence lawyers in China, many of whom are in prison on trumped-up charges. They will also want Ottawa to deport back to China any Chinese nationals who are in Canada for political or economic exile, so they can face Chinese justice, no questions asked.

In addition, the Liberals will be pressured to remove the Harper Government’s restrictions on Chinese state investment holding majority control of companies operating in oil and mining sectors. And, of course, this only works for the Chinese state if Ottawa authorizes construction of an oil pipeline to the B.C. coast, where Chinese tankers will access the port facilities.  

It appears our Government is already preparing to accede to Beijing in all these areas.

Public opinion polls indicate that most Canadians want Ottawa to effectively engage the China on human rights concerns, and are opposed to Chinese state control of critical elements of Canada’s economy. (This of course is not reciprocal, as Beijing would never allow comparable Canadian investment in China.) Canadians are also skeptical about Chinese state firms’ compliance with our environmental and labour standards.

So the question is, why are meetings attended by our Prime Minister — where the Chinese flag is displayed, and Justin Trudeau engages in high spirits with senior people associated with the Chinese regime — vaguely listed as “private meetings”?  

Canadians should be given transparency as our leaders ponder an enormously significant political and economic re-orientation to the much more strategically powerful China.  

Free trade with China will be next on the agenda. But on what terms?

Canadians deserve a full and open accounting before our Government signs on any bottom line.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Remarks to Panel “The Rise of Trumpism” Brock University 17NOV16

The Rise of Trumpism: what happened and what’s next?

The election of Donald Trump to the US presidency was unexpected by most professors of political science — in the United States from Berkeley to Columbia, and indeed in Canada from our McGill to York to UBC. It was unexpected by professors here at Brock too. To them it seems incomprehensible that the American people have chosen as the leader of the free world a man they would characterize as a narcissistic boor whose rationality in discourse is overwhelmed by xenophobic  resentments, and whose frustrations express in racism and misogyny. 

These are the same people who were at a loss to explain how Rob Ford was popularly elected as mayor of Toronto. Nor could they comprehend how Mr Ford sustained very strong support among a significant fraction of residents of Toronto throughout his political career, despite successive revelations of what the media and political elites loudly declaimed as highly unacceptable disreputable behaviour on Mr. Ford’s part. 

But Rob Ford as a municipal leader was not in a position of as much authority as Donald Trump will be. Mayor Ford’s scope for destructive damage was much more constrained than President Trump’s will be. Mr. Ford had no access to the codes for setting off nuclear bombs or capacity to declare war on nations that offended him. But Mr. Trump will.

I have also been here long enough to have been party to the failure of Western political science to have anticipated the collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of the Marxist-Leninist dictatorships that dominated most of Eastern Europe up to the 1990s. We political scientists seem to be more perplexed and bewildered by game changing political change than able to anticipate and account for it.  

The response of so many seems to parallel the great German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s paraphrase of the Old Testament Psalm 55, “Hear My Prayer,” in which King David laments

“My heart is sorely pained, within my breast, 
my soul with deathly terror is oppressed, 
trembling and fearfulness up on me fall, 
with horror overwhelmed, Lord, hear me call!”

Well this does not make for very good social scientific analysis! So the larger question it raises is: “political science: what’s the good in it??”

It turns out that evidently illiberal populism is the preferred political option for close to half of the U.S. electorate. In my case I have dedicated most of my career to scholarly and government work on China and North Korea. So perhaps this makes me more sanguine about illiberal politics than most. After all the Government of North Korea issued a very strong endorsement of Mr. Trump’s candidacy early on in his campaign.  I don’t judge this had much impact on the outcome.  But it is no surprise that Mr. Trump is the favoured choice among authoritarian dictators from Asia to Africa to Latin America.

Our failure to predict the strong appeal of Mr. Trump to a definitive element of the U.S. population leads all the more to questioning political science here at Brock in St Catharines. After all we now know that most of Trump’s support comes from rural areas and smaller towns with a predominantly less educated blue collar population and higher than the national average unemployment rates. In other words, places like our Niagara.  

Similarly to these alienated parts of the USA we here in Niagara know well that we are not central to the awareness of the smug elites of Toronto, Montreal Ottawa and Vancouver. As someone who is sometimes invited to Ottawa to advise on Canada’s China policy, I realize this all the more. I have had this conversation many times: “Oh so you are at Brock University. You know I have passed through Brockville many times on the 401 but have never had a chance to visit your campus! .  . . Please let us know the next time you are back in Ottawa.” But the idea that they would ever have occasion to travel to St Catharines is certainly never a consideration.

And Niagara is culturally different from the more urban settings of Canada. For example our 19-year-old Brock University Political Science student Sam Oosterhoff from Vineland will likely become the next MPP from Niagara West-Glanbrook. Sam is a strong social conservative. A candidate with his conservative Christian values would be highly unlikely to succeed in Rosedale, Westmount-Outremont or Ottawa-Carleton.

Many of the Trump supporters are the collateral damage of the higher cause of globalization in the underclasses particularly in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio — once the proud industrial heartland of America. These are people who had been left behind by the revolutions in technology and globalization, the impact of resultant devastation much underappreciated from the privileged enclaves of the elites in Washington and New York. Donald Trump’s supporters are the dispossessed who yearn for a champion who will take strong measures to set things to rights. And dismantle a rigged system that they see as having been captured by effete elites. In many ways his rise is comparable to the military coups welcomed by the people in less democratic systems

The half of U.S. citizens who voted Trump are not unduly concerned by his racist, sexist and Islamophobic discourse or the critiques of those who point out the exaggerations and deceptive inaccuracies expounded by Mr. Trump. The bottom line is that social values transformation in the US rural areas has not kept pace with urban America.

I am old enough to remember the 1960s and 1970s when pervasive discrimination and racism was mainstream social realities.  

It was accepted as simply a function of the natural order that women would be subject to systemic discrimination that severely constrained their life options. 

Homosexuality was both taboo and illegal under the laws of Canada. 

Society had a hierarchy of white protestants at the top 
followed by Catholics 
followed by Jews 
followed by Chinese and Indians 
followed by blacks of all origins at the bottom. 

Bear in mind that it was only in 1947 that Canadians of Chinese origin were extended the right to vote in Canadian elections. 

Jokes based on denigration of women or homosexuals or  persons of colour was considered a high form of white male entertainment.

There was a popular American socially progressive TV program of the 1970s, "All in the Family " that satirized the values of the generation of blue collar workers that had grown up in the U.S. in the1930s. The theme song of this show was entitled "Those Were the Days. " Part of that song went:

“And you knew who you were then, 
Girls were girls and men were men, 
Mister we could use a man 
Like Herbert Hoover again. 

Didn't need no welfare state, 
Everybody pulled his weight. 
Guys like us we had it made, 
Those were the days”

So there is strong opposition among the Trump supporters to Obamacare as it is considered the road to more intrusions of the state into a free society.

But, more significantly, as Carol Anderson, a historian at Atlanta’s Emory University, put in her interview with Doug Saunders published in the Globe and Mail on Saturday: 
“You know, if you’ve always been privileged, equality begins to look like oppression. That’s part of what you’re seeing in terms of the [white] pessimism, particularly when the system gets defined as a zero-sum game – that you can only gain at somebody else’s loss.”

It is serious: Hilary Clinton only got 51% of college educated white women

The strong support in the U.S. for illiberal populist politics is not resolved by mobilizing all those who would vote against Trump to come out and fill out a ballot the next time. The sole route to resolution of this rising political force in America and throughout the Western world is to address the causes for the severe discontent of those who are so alienated from liberal values of social justice and tolerance of difference.

International impact
Once Mr. Trump assumes the presidency he will likely receive new information and advice that will lead President Trump to modify some of the positions that he espoused in the course of the election campaign and even abandon some of his more intemperate proposals. And who he chooses for key positions in US foreign policy leadership positions will have a strong impact

But it is fair to say that Trump will not support ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The U.S. will abandon commitment to measures to mitigate climate change. 

And tariffs will be imposed on imports from China, Mexico, Canada.

An isolationist America will likely lead to China being able to bring South Korea, Taiwan and the Southeast Asian nations into its geopolitical orbit.

It is all bad news for the prospects of democracy and human rights globally.

To maintain our Canadian prosperity if our economy suffers due to U.S. changing the terms of NAFTA, Canada will likely be more amenable to allowing Chinese state firms access to the Canadian energy and natural resources sectors and to develop infrastructure to get Canadian tar sands oil and minerals to the Canadian west coast for transhipment to Asia. But it would necessarily be on Chinese terms with illiberal political costs that Canada has not been willing to bear up to now.

Let me conclude by saying that 
In general I cannot see much in the way of prospect of positive consequences in the Trump presidency contributing to the building of a more just, peaceful and prosperous world.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here today.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

James Palmer "China Just Won The U.S. Election"

"Trump is also exactly the kind of businessman who is most easily taken in by China — credulous, focused on the externalities of wealth, and massively susceptible to flattery. A single trip, with Chinese laying on the charm, could leave him as fond of China’s strongmen as he is of Russia’s Putin."

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Ai Weiwei to west: tackle China on human rights whatever the cost

Western governments should challenge China on human rights and stand up for their principles, dissident artist Ai Weiwei has said – lamenting the repression faced by Chinese activists but declaring that Beijing’s “business partners” in the rest of the world should not fear making it worse.