Thank you, Chair. It's a great honour for me to be invited to give evidence to this committee.
I have read all the evidence of the committee's meetings—numbers three, four and five—that were sent to me by the clerk, and all this evidence was given by senior Canadian government public servants explaining to the committee how they implement the Canadian government policy towards China.
This morning, I'd like to highlight some factors in the Canada-China relationship that I was disappointed to see omitted in the earlier evidence, some assertions that I interpret differently and finally some recommendations that I have for the Government of Canada on how to more effectively further Canada's interests in our relations with China.
First of all, as is the case in many Canadian families, Chinese, not English or French, is the language of my home. I bring this up because in my youth I read a lot of classical Chinese texts in the original. More than 40 years ago, I had the extraordinary privilege of being admitted into the history of ancient Chinese thought program in the department of philosophy at Fudan University in Shanghai.
Because of this, I was taken aback to read in the evidence given to the committee by a senior government official that the Chinese:
...place an importance on the values of collectivism and harmony, owing to a Confucian heritage. Understanding the extent to which China values unity and the needs of society at large, rather than freedom of individual choice...we just have to understand that. That's where they're coming from.
Later, this earlier witness elaborated, “Some elements of collectivism and harmony are at odds with individual rights. They're different.”
Let me point out that this assertion by our ambassador is consistent with the official propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party under General Secretary Xi Jinping. The Chinese Communist Party upholds its political legitimacy by claiming that China's traditional culture demands, in this modern age, a non-democratic single-party autocratic rule.
I could not disagree more with this interpretation, and I believe it is utterly refuted by the vibrant democracies based on respect for human rights and the rule of law existing today in Taiwan and South Korea.
The troubling question for me in terms of our policy towards China is that, if Canada accepts this idea that China values unity and the needs of society at large rather than freedom of individual choice, does that mean, for example, that Canada will stand idly by in the face of the horrendous and massive program of cultural genocide against the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in China who are confined, as we know, to the so-called re-education camps where they're not permitted to practise their religion at any time over their years of incarceration? The previous witness did not know how many Uighurs are incarcerated, but I can tell you that the U.S. State Department says three million, at least a million. The total population of Uighurs in China is about 10 million.
The other thing, with regard to a response we're not making, is that Canada has put the names of officials from Sudan, Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia on our Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act's Magnitsky list, but in sharp contrast, no Chinese officials complicit in the persecution of Tibetans, Uighurs, Falun Gong, Chinese Christians, democracy activists and so on have been designated.
I believe this sends a strong signal to the PRC regime by omission, and the signal is that hostage diplomacy and the arbitrary imposition of trade sanctions against Canada is a policy that works. Our lack of any substantive response to this emboldens the Chinese regime to do more of this kind of thing in the future.
A second point, the evidence given by our public servants in the previous meetings of this committee repeated over and over the formula that Canada's priority in China relations is “the immediate release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, as well as clemency for Robert Schellenberg”.
However, in response to questioning, one of the officials indicated there are two Canadians, Mr. Schellenberg and Mr. Fan Wei, whose charges on the death penalty are public and available. Why is this focus on Kovrig, Spavor and Schellenberg, three Canadians of non-Chinese origin, to the exclusion of Canadians Huseyin Celil and Fan Wei, who are not?
I judge that this would be deeply troubling to all Canadians formerly resident in the PRC prior to becoming Canadian citizens and joining our national family.
Do we also thereby tacitly accept the Chinese government's claim that persons of Chinese origin in Canada have an obligation of residual loyalty to the Chinese state regardless of their Canadian citizenship? Is this why the serious problem of Chinese state harassment of persons of PRC origin in Canada, in gross violation of the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is essentially unaddressed by our government?
Let me conclude with recommendations that I have for the Government of Canada on how to much more effectively further Canada's interests in China.
The PRC regime's flouting of the standards of international diplomacy is without question becoming more and more blatant as the years go by. Last week, the Czech government's president's office acknowledged the leak of a communication received by that office from the PRC embassy in Prague. In that communication, the PRC threatens that if the speaker of the Czech Parliament travels to Taiwan as planned, then three Czech companies with extensive business in China would be punished, including the famous Petrof piano company.
Unlike the PRC sanctions against our canola seeds—the canola seeds being falsely accused of having severe impurities in their dockage—in this Czech case there is no longer any pretense that there is any legitimate basis for the PRC's threat of trade retaliation if a nation does not comply with the PRC's political agenda. The companies menaced were simply chosen because they have ties to politically influential people in Prague.
The larger question is that Taiwan has a national government utterly in control of its territory, fully legitimated by a liberal democratic election process. Why, then, should the Czech Speaker not go there? The Czech Speaker has not gone, because a few days ago he tragically died suddenly.
Canada has lost the respect of the Chinese regime through our non-action in response to their outrages against us. It is high time for us to kick back by retaliating, especially on China's persistent illegal imports into Canada of the noxious drug fentanyl.
What are the consequences for us?
We've heard evidence that Canada's external trade with China is about 4.7% of our exports—probably less because of current situations—as compared with 75% with the United States. Most of our sales to China are of primary commodities: canola, soybeans, potash, wood and so on.
In the unlikely event that we did incur the wrath of the Chinese regime by standing for our Canadian principles and maintaining the rules-based international order and that China decided to block us further from access to their market in consequence, the consequences would be highly disruptive to certain sectors that need compensation, but I would suggest not as severe as some people who speak in support of China would make out, because these are global commodities that are saleable elsewhere.
Canada's continuing to do nothing in response to China's violations of the accepted norms of international diplomacy and trade will not, in my view, sustain the status quo in our deteriorating relations with China and will certainly not allow us to see movement in achieving the release of Celil, Spavor and Kovrig.
Let me just say one last thing. My friend Anne-Marie Brady spoke to New Zealand's parliamentary inquiry on foreign interference earlier this year. She details the Chinese Communist Party's massive scheme of enticing foreign politicians, academics and business people to promote China's agenda through political lobbying, the media and academia. Besides offering business opportunities or free trips to China by using bribery or honey traps and so on, there are also consultancies in which prominent advisers pocket up to $150,000 U.S. per annum just for being affiliated with PRC entities. As long as the foreign adviser promotes relations with China on PRC terms, the money keeps coming.
I urge that the committee look seriously at Australia's 2018 Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act. Canada needs to come to terms with Chinese money benefiting Canadian political campaigns and rewarding Canadian politicians and public servants who are seen as friends of China.
Mr. Chair, I welcome vigorous and challenging questions from members of the committee on any of these and any other topics. There are many topics that I have been unable to address in this short statement. I do regret that.
Before I start, I want to apologize for my informal appearance. I'm actually just transiting Toronto on the way to go trekking in Turkey, so I'm stopping in to do this.
My statement is about eight minutes. I'll go through it as quickly as I can.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before this committee. It is an honour to have the opportunity to discuss the Canada-China relationship, something that occupied a sizeable portion of my career in Canada's foreign service.
I've had the privilege of observing and participating in the Canada-China relationship for over 30 years. This included three postings to our embassy in Beijing between 1984 and 2008, as well as serving as deputy negotiator for Canada during China's accession to the World Trade Organization, and later on as director general for north Asia in what is now Global Affairs Canada.
These assignments were both fascinating and difficult because managing Canada-China relations, even at the best of times, is challenging. China is complex and full of contradictions. Its diplomatic face can be smooth and sophisticated, or ham-handed and brutish. As Canada has now witnessed first-hand, its reward-and-punishment approach to relations with all but the most powerful of countries means that relations can turn on a dime and suddenly enter a deep freeze. That's what Canada is experiencing now. With the arrests of the two Michaels in retaliation for Canada's detention of Meng Wanzhou, bilateral relations have plunged to their lowest point since Canada and China established diplomatic relations 50 years ago.
The Meng Wanzhou case presents some very difficult choices for the government. There is no perfect solution. It can let the case work its way through the court system. If the judge rules that the extradition should proceed, this will lead to a trial and possibly many years of detention and imprisonment under very difficult circumstances for the two Canadians. If the Minister of Justice decides to intervene in the case and release Meng in order to obtain the release of the two Michaels, it rewards China's bad behaviour. Let's not forget that they are not the first Canadians to have been arbitrarily arrested in response to actions by the Canadian government. For this reason, it is imperative that such a decision be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy for managing our relationship with China.
China sees this issue, I believe, in geopolitical terms and Meng's arrest as part of a larger U.S.-led strategy to hinder China's rise and to undermine China's leading companies. They will not back down. For this reason, I believe the only way to obtain the release of the two Michaels is through the release of Meng Wanzhou, either as a result of a judicial decision or action by the Minister of Justice.
If this latter approach is taken, it would need to be part of a broader decision that would include turning down Huawei's 5G application and restoring Canada's access for canola, and other outstanding issues. I also think Canada could play a leading role in crafting a collective response to China's practice of taking hostages. China has been engaged in this practice with virtual impunity for some time, and has arbitrarily imprisoned citizens of a number of countries. If all countries affected by this practice could commit to a common and collective response—trade measures, for example—when a citizen of one of the countries is taken hostage, it would send a strong message to China that such actions will not be tolerated. It's a complex and tough situation, and charting a way forward will be difficult. There's been talk, particularly from China's side, about getting through this current situation and putting the relationship back on track, which implies returning to the way things were before Meng's arrest. I don't think we can go back to the way things were before. This case has done significant harm to China's image in Canada, and has led to a fundamental shift in Canadian attitudes, and in the relationship itself.
China is and will continue to be important to Canada, both as an economic power and a global player, but the current situation has underscored the importance of approaching China with a critical eye and an understanding of what drives its foreign policy decisions. China's approach to foreign affairs is tough, strategic and driven by power rather than principle. It is almost exclusively focused on advancing its own interests through the exercise of hard and soft power, including in global institutions. Its perspective is informed by its history of being carved up and invaded by foreign powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Because of this, China is determined never to be weak again and is focused upon returning to its earlier prominence as a global power. Within the Chinese system there is a strong undercurrent of skepticism and suspicion of the west's intentions and ultimate agenda with respect to China.
We should also keep in mind that a fundamental driver of Chinese foreign policy, indeed all policy, is keeping the Communist Party in power. The leadership is thus focused on stability, which requires sustained economic growth, peaceful relations at its borders and, increasingly, addressing middle-class concerns about environmental degradation and corruption. Securing and maintaining this stability is also part of Xi Jinping's drive for a stronger global presence and leadership role for his country.
Successful management of relations with China requires a clear sense of Canada's priorities and interests and a tough-minded commitment to advancing and defending them. Stories of early Canadian missionaries in China, of Norman Bethune and of Canada's decision to sell wheat to China in the wake of the great famine, all provide good imagery and heartwarming content for speeches but are largely irrelevant. China deals in power and respects power. A firm and strategic push-back in defence of Canada's interests and knowing where our leverage lies will garner respect. Being too accommodating out of concern for friendship or fear of offending will make us seem weak. China plays this game well.
lt is also important for our government to avoid the tendency to view China through a preconceived ideological or political lens or through a single issue. Doing so undermines our capacity to deal with the complex reality of the country and our relationship with it.
The past two decades have seen wide swings in how successive governments have initially approached China. An overarching long-range vision supported by all parties would put Canada in a more advantageous position to consistently manage our relations with this country.
Moving forward, Canada needs a balanced approach based on a realistic understanding of China as it is, the opportunities and the challenges. This approach should also inform Canada's approach to Asia as a whole and our view of China's place in our approach to the region. With its strong focus on China over the last decades, Canada may have overlooked opportunities to form deeper ties with other countries whose markets are easier to navigate and whose systems—in Japan, for example—are based on the rule of law. The CPTPP should help in this rebalancing and diversification of Canada's trade interests in Asia. Canada's public support for broadening the agreement to include Thailand and Taiwan would further help this diversification.
Canada should also give consideration to its relationship with Taiwan, a vibrant and progressive democracy and the only Asian country to approve same-sex marriage. Canada and Taiwan have a healthy trading relationship with good potential for the future. 's public statement in support of Taiwan's meaningful participation in organizations like ICAO and the World Health Assembly is a good signal, but there is more that Canada could do to advance our interests there. A visit by a Canadian economic minister to support Canadian commercial objectives would respect the parameters of a “one China” policy and would send an important signal to both China and Taiwan.
Successful management of Canada-China ties requires coordination and coherence. Many federal government departments and most provinces have interests in the country. Although provinces sometimes compete for investment and students, they should be encouraged to buy into Canada's broader agenda in China. On core and important issues like human rights and the two Michaels, Canadian governments at all levels should present a united and consistent front in their discussions with their Chinese counterparts.
Canada-China relations are in a difficult place right now, and there is no easy path forward, but this is also an opportunity to objectively assess the relationship and to develop a realistic and balanced approach to our ties with this important global power.
I wish you all the best in these important deliberations.
Thank you, Chairman, for the opportunity to appear before the committee, albeit virtually, by video conference from 15,000 kilometres away in Singapore.
I've been studying and teaching international relations for more than 40 years, mostly dealing with U.S.-China and Canada-China relations. The focus of my remarks today will be about government-to-government relations between Canada and China. The overall relationship is, of course, much broader and includes human flows and cultural, business and educational exchanges, but this is an era in which high politics matter and government policies are in flux.
All of us are aware of how the fates of Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and Meng Wanzhou have generated a major diplomatic rift and changed the emotional landscape of feelings and emotions in both countries. Trust and mutual respect have been badly shaken. More recently the COVID-19 virus has affected Canadian interactions with China and our views about how to evaluate the competence of the Government of the People's Republic of China.
In the midst of these and other controversies, it's tempting to think that when they're resolved we can revert to normal in our bilateral diplomatic relations. I think this is unlikely. Rather, we have entered new territory, the product of forces much larger than individual incidents and consular cases and much larger than commercial issues like Huawei's potential involvement in our 5G telecommunications network. We are living amidst major shifts in economic, diplomatic and technological power, the emergence of a multi-polar world order and a resurgence of great power rivalry.
For almost all of the past 50 years, there has been a consensus in Canada about the main outlines of a China policy, one that we came to call “engagement” and that at one time involved a strategic partnership between our two countries. Engagement was built on three pillars. First, the closer interaction with China was of commercial value and would benefit the prosperity of Canadians. Second, it was initially important to end China's isolation and later to integrate it into what we now call a rules-based international order. Third, it served the moral purpose of supporting economic and societal openness that would lead, over time, to political liberalization in China.
Engagement, Canadian-style, depended on a geopolitical context in which Canada had room for independent manoeuvre when it moved in somewhat different directions from Washington—for example in recognizing the PRC eight years ahead of the U.S. Engagement with Canadian characteristics overall was very successful, but it now has to be rethought, not out of anger about specific Chinese actions or fear about the hard edge of growing Chinese power and influence. It needs to be amended because of new circumstances that are not likely to change anytime soon.
The geopolitical and geo-economic balances are shifting. China is now a major global player, present in virtually every international institution and proving capable of creating some of its own. Moreover it is increasingly assertive in pursuing its own interests and in challenging the liberal dimensions of those institutions, particularly as they relate to human rights and democracy. China doesn't need Canadian help in the way it did in the past, and in some instances it is championing positions that challenge us directly.
The belief that economic openness would produce political liberalization now seems mistaken, at least for the time being. Under Xi Jinping, China is more repressive domestically and along its periphery than at any time since Mao Zedong. In addition, a new American consensus has emerged, spearheaded by the Trump administration but with broader bipartisan support, that the American version of engagement is dead. It has been replaced by a framing of China somewhere along a continuum of strategic competitor, adversary, rival or enemy. Washington is engaged in a full-court press, militarily, diplomatically and economically, to counter China's rising influence and power. As Henry Kissinger recently stated, this has led the U.S. and China to “the foothills of a cold war.”
As Washington is making abundantly clear in its pressure on Canada and other governments on the matter of Huawei and 5G, the costs of a made-in-Canada choice could be steep. Caught between Xi Jinping's China dream, Donald Trump's America first and a deepening geostrategic competition between the two, what can Canada do?
Let me make three recommendations.
First, rather than signing up for Cold War 2.0 and the active containment or confinement of China, we need to discuss and define a more flexible policy frame. Engaging in China 2.0, a sort of post-engagement engagement policy, is one way. Another would be co-existing with China. Neither is premised on changing China but on finding ways to live with China. Neither locks China into defined roles as friend or adversary, partner or competitor, ally or existential threat, but allows Canadian interests and values to determine the course of action on an issue-by-issue basis. Co-operate where we can in areas including climate change, global economic and financial governance, peacekeeping, agri-tech and the Arctic, to name a few. Push back where we must, particularly in matters related to interference in our domestic affairs and gross violations of human rights.
Second, we need to fight for the rule-based international order at the same time as we promote its reform in institutions, including the WTO, IMF and the World Bank, and through regional processes like the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. We need to push back against efforts to unravel or corrode the multilateral rules-based system, whether those challenges come from China or, as we have increasingly seen, from the United States. This will require recapturing a middle power identity that respects our alliance with the U.S. but navigates an independent course in matters like supporting the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or giving a balanced assessment of its belt and road initiative, both of which offer new approaches to international co-operation and development.
We will not be with the U.S. or with China in all matters, but we will not be alone. It is worth looking closely at how other countries facing similar dilemmas are adjusting their China policies. A good start would be to look at Australia, Japan, Singapore and perhaps the United Kingdom.
Finally, a new frontier of the relationship is reacting to China's growing presence, influence and occasional interference in Canada. A higher level of awareness and vigilance is needed to protect Canadian values and institutions at home. We need to do this without sensationalizing or exaggerating Chinese activities and their impact, without singularizing China as the only player in the influence and interference business, and without stigmatizing Chinese Canadians by calling into question their integrity and loyalty.
How, for example, do we keep our doors open to Chinese students and to research exchanges in our universities while closing windows to protect intellectual property and national security in an era of technological competition with China and extraterritorial pressure from the United States? Fashioning a new national consensus and a new narrative for relations with China and building it on a multi-party foundation will not be easy. We haven't tried it in a systematic way since 1966.
The work and recommendations of this special committee have the potential to make a signal contribution.
Thank you so much.
Yes, I am very concerned about the rise of China, and particularly such phenomena that we see with PRC citizens in key roles in multilateral organizations who seem to be seeking to undermine the purposes of those organizations, presumably under instruction from Beijing. I mean Interpol, ICAO and other UN institutions.
In general, on the Chinese state's penetration into Canada, we don't have adequate laws comparable to other nations about the transfer of classified technologies to agents of the Chinese state. You may have noticed the total number of Canadian cases on this matter over the past few years, to the best of my knowledge, is zero, whereas other countries are able to bring these people to account. There's the case of the Public Security Bureau, of China's agents coming to Canada under false pretenses to pressure persons in our country. Our RCMP's response is that if we discover that someone has come into Canada under false pretenses, under those circumstances, we immediately deport them back to China—no accountability to the person involved.
I am concerned, in general, about the threat of China's desire to undermine the established institutions of the global order, the WTO and the United Nations, and replace them with what party General Secretary Xi Jinping, in October 2017, defined as the “community of common destiny with mankind”, which is really a reorientation of the global order in the context of his belief that the United States will decline towards China, including the belt and road initiative that will reorient global infrastructure towards Beijing.
It's important that we recognize what's going on, and with our allies, particularly the United States, where there is non-partisan political consensus about this issue. It's not just Mr. Trump. His nemesis Speaker Pelosi has also articulated that we need to stand up for the principles of the rules-based order, which protects middle powers like Canada from the arbitrary domination of hegemonic superpowers. I'm particularly concerned about China because of the values gap that informs that regime, which is so different from what makes Canada a great nation.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank our witnesses very much for their presentations, which I found extremely enlightening.
Mr. Burton deplored the fact that he certainly had other points to address and other contributions to make.
I invite our witnesses to feel free to send us any comments or observations they may have on any topic at a later date. Their contribution can be most enlightening to our committee.
I'm trying to summarize everything we've heard from our witnesses, and I've identified four main themes.
First, the mythical era of China-Canada relations based on friendship, collaboration, missionaries, Norman Bethune, Canadian wheat and Canada's recognition of the People's Republic of China before the United States, is over. We are in a new phase.
Secondly, China is obviously a growing power, and it places a value on power or aspiration to power.
Third, therefore, Canada should take a more determined approach and show more firmness towards the government of the People's Republic of China.
Fourth and finally, Canada should try to develop a multilateral response to China's actions in violation of the international rules currently in effect which do not seem to be respected in any way by the Chinese authorities.
In trying to sum up in these four points that you've presented to us, did I do a good reading of what you tried to bring to our attention this morning?
Thank you Chairman, and thank you to all our witnesses for being here today.
I'm going to build a little bit upon some of the remarks that Mr. Bergeron made. What struck me from the testimony was, to some slight degree, everyone seemed to agree that we can't go back. There is no going back to a normal relationship with China, as a result of what has taken place over the last number of years and months, as well as because of a changing and different China.
Someone mentioned this, and I'll come back to this. It seems we made a bet over the last generation that we would work to end China's isolation by granting the country most favoured nation status as a way to bring it into the international order and then, after that, into the World Trade Organization. I think I read at one point that even Margaret Thatcher's gamble on Hong Kong was to hand the territory back to mainland China in the hope that it would spark a more liberal approach to its politics, which of course, unfortunately, has not happened.
We are a liberal democracy. China is not, and if anything, it is reverting further away from us, so if what we're seeing is not working, and if the bet has not paid off, it would seem to me that the position of.... What struck me is that your comments run counter to what I hear from official Ottawa—from the Government of Canada policy—both from the ambassador, as well as ranking government officials. Is that correct? If you could maybe all limit your comments to a minute, I'd appreciate it.
Mr. Burton, why don't you start since you're right here?
I would say two things.
One is that tone is important, as it is with any kind of relationship, and that while public statements are sometimes useful, they are also blunt instruments and have to be matched with other kinds of engagement that takes place out of the public eye.
Second, I would say that the more you can provide a business case for convincing them that what you're trying to, let's say, advocate for China is in their interests and not just an extension of our own values, the more it can be effective.
For example, on human rights issues, if you can make the argument.... For example, on the coronavirus, if you want to talk about transparency and governance, you can make a business case for China right now, behind closed doors, saying, “Look, you lost a month of potential activity that could have possibly contained this virus, because of your system, because of the way you control, with the lack of transparency and your crackdown on the very people who were trying to draw attention to this. This should tell you something.” Basically, you can argue that respect for human rights and for more democracy is ultimately more stable and ultimately provides more possibility for addressing challenges and long-term challenges in any country.
Also—for example on the Uighur issue, which is abominable in the way they're treating them—we can bring Canada's experience to bear and say, “Look, we have our own experience in the way we have treated our indigenous people. It has been very costly in social and financial terms because of the incredible mismanagement of it.” The more you can present issues in that way, the more you're going to find some kind of willing listener.
Members of the Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, I thank you for the honour of testifying before you today.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to testify before you, and I will be happy to answer your questions in English or French.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the People's Republic of China and Canada. It also marks the 50th anniversary of my starting to learn Chinese. I see this as a particularly opportune moment from which to examine our bilateral relationship. My presentation is in three parts. In the first part I review the pattern of our relationship. In the second, I offer my perspective on the nature of the Chinese regime and the constraints this imposes on our bilateral relations and our alliance relations. In the third, I offer some perspective on the current state of our relations and how we may move forward.
We negotiated the establishment of bilateral relations beginning in 1968, a time when the People's Republic of China was largely isolated diplomatically during the unprecedented turmoil known as the Cultural Revolution. The premise of our initiative was not to endorse the Chinese regime, nor was it that China would transform itself into Canada. The human rights situation was then much worse than it is today. Underlying our establishment of diplomatic relations—and I defer to Professor Paul Evans on this question, since he literally wrote the book—was to bring China into the community of nations for the sake of global peace and security, as well as to diversify our foreign relations and trade and to show ourselves to be an independent global actor.
Our effort was eventually rewarded beyond our initial hopes. The People's Republic of China took its seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council within months of the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 1970. Within 10 years, China began the process of reform and opening up, which led to China's spectacular rise. Canada played a role as a partner in China's reform and opening through our CIDA program, which began in 1981. China's reform and opening turned into a hope that China's reform would lead it to being a full participant in the liberal international order.
This initial hope was contradicted by the events of Tiananmen in 1989. When China's economic reforms resumed in 1991-92, our CIDA programs also continued, and hope was reignited, albeit on a more cautious and more long-term trajectory. China's efforts to join the World Trade Organization were symbolic of this renewed effort, and it was in this context in 1998 that then Chinese premier Zhu Rongji called Canada “China's best friend in the world.” Canadian efforts facilitated the adaptations of China's legal system and its institutions to the demands of an open trading system when China entered the WTO in January 2001.
In the 21st century, China no longer needs Canada to tutor it, nor to open doors for it. Just as China's success grew apparent, our relationship lost its overall strategic rationale. The spectacular growth of the Chinese economy became the new justification for our relationship, but we were disappointed that our previous history granted us no special privileges in the Chinese market. Even the team Canada approach failed to arrest the decline in our market share of the Chinese economy, and our trade fell into persistent deficits that see us buying basically two dollars of goods for every dollar we sell. We have not been able to establish a strategic focus in our relations under both Liberal and Conservative governments. Over the past decade and a half, as China's power has grown, our disappointed hopes have become increasingly tinged with fear.
In terms of the nature of the Chinese regime, since Xi Jinping rose to power at the 18th party congress in 2012, China has moved from a defence of China's difference as an exception to the universality of liberal values to celebration of its governance based on its own cultural traditions and achievements of the Communist regime.
Xi has been careful not to broadcast that the Chinese model should be copied or imposed, but nonetheless offers his country's experience as a model for developing countries to learn from. However, it is worth remembering that at the time when Canada recognized China, in October 1970, Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party still espoused global revolution and the overthrow of capitalism. That is not the case today. Beijing's concerns about liberal democracy largely stem from its fears about the domestic security of its own regime. lt does not seek to aggressively undermine regimes abroad. It’s not Russia. As the world's greatest exporter, China is inherently committed to an open, rules-based international trading order. China is trying to cement its status through initiatives like the belt and road initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
These efforts to increase prosperity and connectivity through the BRI and the AIIB are not in themselves a threat to Canada. Investment in public goods, like infrastructure, will pay dividends even if we are not direct beneficiaries or participants. Moreover, closer engagement will allow us to exercise some influence, such as our membership in the AIIB, over the direction and management of these programs. We confront China as a successful competitor that has adapted market methods to achieve state-led goals. This is a challenge, but it is not a threat to the rules-based order in itself.
China's Leninist regime is designed to insulate the political leadership from outside influence, domestic or international, so its entire outlook is based on insulating itself from the outside internally and externally. However, the continued survival of the Chinese Communist Party—the People's Republic of China has now survived longer than the Soviet Union did—requires it to adapt and learn. China is sensitive, in the best and worst sense of the term, to outside opinion and to criticism from below.
The Chinese dream of China's great rejuvenation represents joining the world, not isolating China from it. One concrete expression of this is the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students in Canada. Our strategy must allow for different representations of the will of the Chinese people, while recognizing that the Chinese government we are dealing with is the government that is empowered to make commitments by the Chinese state. We have no control or say on how it may change or when.
Canadian prosperity and global influence depend on having a workable relationship with China. Right now we have the worst relationship with China of any of the G7 countries, but there are signs that our relationship is thawing. This provides hope for improvement, but I share with other Canadians the conviction that there can be no fundamental improvement in the relationship until the two Michaels go free.
The Chinese have an expression they employ often in their diplomacy called qiutong cunyi, which means emphasize points of agreement while reserving differences. We must craft a strategy that allows us to do that even though we have serious, ongoing human rights concerns, particularly as regards Xinjiang. We cannot disentangle China from the fate of the globe, and any hope of isolating or containing China is doomed to fail. There is a whole agenda of issues, including climate change and global health, where we have no choice but to work with China. Our prosperity, like China's, depends on an open, rules-based trading system. We cannot safeguard that system and a healthy environment for global innovation without China.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am honoured to contribute to your deliberations today by sharing with you some of the fruits of my research and observations on Canada-China relations.
I commend the important work of your committee, and I recognize the urgency of assessing this relationship, given the situation of our fellow citizens incarcerated in China, specifically, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. We all recognize the bad turning point in the Canada-China relationship since the arrest of Ms. Meng Wanzhou on December 1, 2018, and the arrest of the two Michaels on December 10, 2018.
I also acknowledge that we are talking here in the middle of a public health crisis wherein we have many diplomats in China, including the ambassador, and where the biggest lockdown of cities in the modern age has taken place, with terrible suffering.
I also will take this chance to thank the clerk of the committee and the staff for making a difference every day, including the pages, Hansard, translators and clerks. I have a student now who served as a page last year, and it was a fantastic training ground.
I'd like to start with two key points. Then I'll focus on some key aspects of the international system as it relates to Canada-China and offer some points on China and some implications for Canada. First, the Canada-China downturn is part of a larger period of great disruption in global politics. Every country today is adjusting its posture in international affairs and is responding to the moves of others. Second, in this context, Canada's priorities are to be robust in defence of the national interest and in finding actionable pathways to defend the rules-based international order with key partners. Effective multilateralism must underpin Canada's action in the international arena.
Now I'll offer some points on the international context and how it impacts upon the Canada-China relation.
I call this the age of disruptions. To a large extent, the Canada-China crisis is part of the larger U.S.-China crisis and is a prism for the challenges to the rules-based order.
Let me elaborate on five key drivers and their impact.
First, we're living through a crisis of globalization. We see peaking trade flows, a move toward the regionalization and deglobalization of global supply chains. Globally induced inequalities have led to great polarization and tensions in most advanced democracies. This is an age of anxiety and anger in countries such as the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy, Greece, Poland and many others.
Second, we're facing systemic shifts in our economic system due to the combination of climate change and the fourth industrial revolution. These two forces are creating heightened competition.
Third, we have just lived through one of the greatest shifts in economic power in modern history. Between 2000 and 2018, more than 20% of global GDP in nominal dollars shifted hands from OECD countries to emerging economies. Of this shift, 60%—that is, 12 points—went to China. The rest went to India, Southeast Asia, central Asia and Africa. The IMF estimates that Asia represents 60% of world growth today and for the next decade. The open economy facilitated that shift, yet it's also important to note that China and India are essentially returning to where they were for 2,000 years until 1820, that is, before the industrial revolution and colonization. As part of this change we see a more assertive China but also a more assertive India, Russia, Indonesia and Africa.
Fourth, China today represents 16% of world GDP nominal dollars and 19% in PPP terms. That's 2018 data. From 2012 to 2020, China has represented one-third of global growth. China is a giant in every domain, from health to renewable energy to AI, big data, international students and UN peacekeeping soldiers. We cannot work on any global issue in the world today without working with China. We also observe a recoupling of Asian sub-regions, such as South Asia, Southeast Asia, central Asia and China. Those regions had been disconnected since colonial times—for more than 200 years, and in fact since the fall of Tamerlane, the last Mongol ruler, in 1405.
Fifth, we're currently witnessing a shock in the international order as the U.S., the leader that created the liberal order, is, under the Trump administration, turning against many of the multilateral institutions that the U.S. created and has nurtured since World War II. We don't know yet whether it's a bargaining readjustment or a longer-term disruption to the 100-year search for order, going back to Woodrow Wilson following World War I.
The consequence of those five disruptions and systemic changes is a period of growing geopolitical rivalry. I see tremendous dynamism. I also see tremendous misperceptions, since every power is reading the actions of the others through its own historical frame and narratives. For example, the arrest of Madam Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 led to extremely powerful reactions among the Chinese public and within the government, revealing great misunderstanding about Canada's true intentions. Of course, the same is true on the Canadian side. You may unlock such misunderstandings by looking for clues in Europe.
I'm also struck that the Internet has not narrowed perceptions among groups or nations, but increased them due to echo chamber effects and overload. In this context, it's essential to start by understanding what drives and motivates other players, so as to find actual pathways to get things done. It's crucial to avoid emotional tit-for-tat cycles that lead to everybody being worse off.
As a case in point, see the EU's wake-up call with the last op-ed written by Josep Borrell, the current High Representative of the EU, on February 8, 2020, in Project Syndicate. He urged Europe to wake up to a world where big players don't play according to rules but practise issue linkage and power politics. He urged the EU to have strategic thinking, to build leverage and coalitions. We hear similar views from our key ally in Asia, Japan.
Now I will say a few things about China and Chinese governance and Chinese perceptions.
China is complex and paradoxical. It has gained great international power yet faces more domestic and global uncertainties today than at any time since the end of the Mao era. Here are a few of the challenges.
First, about Chinese governance, if you've talked to members of the Chinese middle class in recent years, you get a sense of great hope and emergence from great trauma. China was a wealthy and peaceful country in 1820, representing 30% of the world's economy. After 1820, China lived through two opium wars and the loss of trade and foreign autonomy to western powers and Japan, and there were great peasant rebellions that killed upward of 50 million people in the late 1800s. The great hope of the 1911 revolution with Sun Yat-Sen was followed immediately by fragmentation into warlord-held regions, civil war for decades, invasion by Japan that killed another 20 million, more civil war and the Korean war. China did have a few good years from 1952 to 1957, followed by the madness of the anti-rightist campaign, the Great Leap Forward with a famine that killed 50 million more, followed in turn by Mao's cultural revolution. No wonder the middle class supports stability and sees the current decades as the best time in China in 150 years, an age of prosperity and possibility.
There is, of course, broad support for the regime. Many Chinese feel a sense of great progress, growing wealth and prosperity, greater freedom—except for political freedom, particularly the ability to criticize the party.
There is also, of course, increasing desire for information and voice, especially on social media. At the same time, given that the middle class is only 25% of the population, it's not yet in its interest to hand power to the other 75%, the rest of the population. Think of Thailand and the yellow vest push-back against democratically elected Thaksin. What I hear, however, are aspirations for evolution over time that would yield better political freedom and governance without the trauma of national fragmentation or past dynastic change.
Second, given a long and sophisticated political history over thousands of years and China representing a big share of humanity's collective experience, the Chinese people and government alike expect recognition for that heritage. The current government may be Leninist in structure, but it often behaves like a government that inherited practices and norms from past dynasties.
Third, while China does not buy in to the political pillar of the liberal order, governance is nonetheless fragmented and pluralistic. Despite Xi Jinping's very strong accumulation of power and crackdowns on many fields like media, the structure of power remains collective leadership. When Xi doesn't get the support of the 25-strong politburo or the seven-strong standing committee, he cannot move forward. In fact, to stay on for a third mandate after 2022—
All kidding aside, the Canada West Foundation was created 50 years ago for moments much like today to ensure that the west has a voice in affairs that shape the country, but more to assure that the west can contribute to creating a strong and prosperous Canada. A strong west is a strong Canada, and nowhere is that more evident than in our relations with Asia.
We've been through some difficult times, the west and the country. We are in some now, but we continue to work towards that vision of a strong west in a strong Canada. Given what's happened today, we just hope that the rest of the country will continue to respond and to reach out to us.
On Asia and engagement, we have three points today for the committee.
Asia and Canada's engagement has been a focus for the Canada West Foundation. We carried out modelling—economic impact assessments—that members in another committee asked that the government do, so that Parliament could actually have data, intelligence and information to understand trade agreements. We did it for the CPTPP in advance of the government's doing it.
That information was critical for the committee to understand. It was critical for the country to have the data, to understand and to keep the country and the government from making the calamitous mistake of walking away from the TPP agreement. Given the way our relations with the U.S. and our relations with China have gone, it's easy to see not just how prescient but how important that sort of information was.
We have three points for the committee, and we hope these will guide your thinking going forward and guide your questioning of other witnesses.
The first is that Canada's relation with China flows through the west. The west is the centre and the focus of our engagement with China. Yes, other parts of the country are involved, but it is in the west that the rubber meets the road. It is the west that is implicated immediately, in ways that other parts of the country aren't.
Second, agriculture is a key part of this relationship. The data that you have before you, which my colleague will walk you through, shows this.
Third, agriculture may offer an idea of what the solution is or how we begin to build on re-engagement.
It may facilitate the renewal of this relationship at the appropriate time.
It is how we can potentially re-engage when the time is right.
I will now turn it over to my colleague, our trade policy economist, to walk us through some of the data.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll start with some numbers. Even though the U.S. is and will continue to be our largest trading partner, the average growth of two-way trade with China over the last 10 years has been 12%—that compares with 4% with the U.S.—and 65% of this two-way trade with China comes from the four western provinces. China has become an important trading partner for Canada and for western Canada.
Our engagement with our second largest trading partner will continue to grow.
Trade with China is particularly important for agriculture. If you look at diagram six in the testimony I've shared with you, you see that more than $10 billion, or 37% of Canada's total export to China, is agricultural and that 75% of this agricultural export to China comes from the four western provinces of Canada.
This is why a poor relationship with China is detrimental to Canadian trade, particularly in the west.
We've observed evidence of this in our recent issues with China on canola, on pork, on beef and on soy.
Canada, therefore, needs market access certainty with China, which means reducing or mitigating arbitrary actions that have harmed farmers and diminished Canadian exports. This means addressing non-tariff barriers in the long term for Canadian agriculture.
While trade in agriculture is important for Canada—it's important for western Canada—agriculture or food security specifically is very important for China. We've seen clear indications of this in their five-year plans. We see evidence of it in “made in China 2025”, their industrial policy that aims for self-sustainability in agriculture as one area by focusing on smart agricultural technology. We see evidence of it in the belt and road initiative that focuses on transportation and infrastructure connectivity by land and by sea as an indication for longer-term agricultural supply certainty.
OECD also has projections on agricultural consumption by 2028. China comes first for many of the agricultural sectors that are important for Canadian export, such as pork, oilseeds, protein meal, soybean and cereal.
So China's interest is agri-food security and Canada's interest is certainty of access to the Chinese market. Agriculture is therefore a key interest shared by both countries, but this interest is driven by different needs.
Indeed, if you look at the interests of agriculture, on the one hand China needs food security—access to certainty on access to supply. Even though China is moving to become self-sufficient in certain commodities, the overall demand means that they will always need foreign inputs, not simply as a backstop but to feed the population.
On the other hand, Canada needs market access certainty. If we are going to have producers risk farms, risk investments, risk things that have been in their families for generations, we need certainty about access to markets. That certainty has just been redefined by the U.S.-China phase one trade agreement.
At Canada West, we're engaged on a project to examine how other countries are dealing with non-tariff barrier issues with China. We've looked at Australia and New Zealand, obviously, but also Brazil. I would suggest that at the committee you always hear Australia, New Zealand and the United States, but Brazil has some interesting insights.
Looking at the phase one agreement, what the U.S. has done is redefine what market access certainty is. There are, give or take, 121 specific concessions that the U.S. got from China in that agreement; 51 of them are what I would call hyper-specific commitments and concessions. They're such things as that, within 20 days of receipt of any monthly updates to the list of U.S. pet food and non-ruminant-derived animal feed facilities that the U.S. has determined to be eligible for export, China shall register the facilities, publish the updates to the list on the Chinese GACC—the Chinese customs website—and allow imports of food derived from animal feed from U.S. facilities on that list.
You have the same thing for pork. You have the same thing for beef.
These types of market access certainty are the bar. This will essentially have us out of the Chinese market.
If you think about access and what we need to get from China, agriculture offers a possible solution. If we were to engage China and guarantee access to Canadian supply—not that we'll send a certain amount, but that we will not impose political restrictions on China's access to food, on China's access to agricultural technology, on China's ability to invest in or to access agricultural biotechnology, on China's ability to invest in agricultural production, on China's ability to invest in agricultural processing—we'd have the makings, potentially, of an agreement.
This distinguishes us from the Americans, who used food as a political weapon throughout their history. Even just two months ago, a former U.S. undersecretary was threatening to cut off food to North Korea. We distinguish ourselves from the Americans, we establish why we are different and we have the basis for re-engaging China to reset the relation. Obviously, China will want more, but this is a start.
For the committee—
First of all, let me just extend a message of respect to all witnesses, particularly Professor Tiberghien, who had to withstand that line of questioning and did so very calmly. We're very fortunate as a committee to benefit from the insights of witnesses, and today is no different.
Let me begin if I could with Mr. Dade.
Mr. Dade, I'm not sure if you were here for the previous testimony, but if you were, you would have heard Charles Burton from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who made a statement that I thought was quite interesting and it surprised me. I'd like to get your insight and that of Ms. Sun, as well.
He said—and I'm paraphrasing—that if Canada wanted to shift its export focus away from China, global commodities could be sold elsewhere, and he implied that this could be done relatively easily. What you've presented to us here in terms of cold, hard data is just how entrenched the relationship is in terms of our economy vis-à-vis China, particularly on agriculture, and the western provinces figure quite prominently in that.
Would it be very easy to just shift quickly, as Mr. Burton implied?
Mr. Fragiskatos doesn't appear to have liked my last line of questioning, but Mr. Tiberghien, this is, I think, an important one to follow up on because I have a couple hundred pages of emails exchanged between members of the China council at UBC over a couple of months in early 2019. Those were obtained under a FOIPPA request in British Columbia. These are important things to highlight, because I asked you if professors on the China council at UBC ever consult with administrators before speaking publicly, and if you ever ask for speaking points before offering public comment.
You said, “No”, but after receiving an email from a reporter at the UBC student newspaper about Huawei and Canada-China relations on January 18, 2019, you wrote to Adriaan de Jager, associate vice-president of government relations and community engagement, and Murali Chandrashekaran, co-chair of the China council, and you asked, “Any advice on how I should respond to this request? Thanks Yves”.
Adriaan de Jager responded, “Looping in Kurt Heinrich who will share our response to media regarding Huawei.” He's a senior director of media relations for UBC.
For Kurt: I can of course provide my expertise on the analysis of the larger Huawei event and Canada-China relations. But I will be asked about impact on UBC and UBC's reactions. So, it is good for me to know well the official response...do you encourage me to do this interview?
Earlier that month, on January 2, you wrote to Paul Evans and others asking for his notes from various meetings. One of the co-chairs of the Canada-China Council—
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and again, very revealing.
The email references an official UBC point of view:
I would recommend we have one meeting in which all players are present.
Yves—you should trigger that meeting sooner rather than later....?
You wrote back saying, “I just sent the general email triggering the message.”
Another question I asked of you is if professors on the China council are involved in commercial negotiations with Huawei. You said no. I have here an email you received from Paul Evans on on March 9. It reads as follows:
Meigan set up a very good session for me on Wednesday with six of her...applied science colleagues. Crisp and informed discussion about experiences in working with China, Huawei related matters in particular, and the changing environment for future collaborations.
Reconciling national security concerns and related risks with advancing research and science is a complicated issue that they are all thinking about. So far there has been no interaction with Ottawa on this but clearly an interest in doing so.
I've suggested a second meeting with the same or a slightly enlarged group or the smaller UBC group (four of five were with us) negotiating with HW now. Meigan made the case that this is an issue where UBC could play a national leadership role. She'll do some internal consultations. Gail has informed.
I had asked you as well if the China council played a direct role in university fundraising or in providing advice related to fundraising. You said not in many years.
On March 20, 2019, you sent an email to various colleagues called “Strategic follow-up action items UBC-China” in which one of the items is the presidential advisory council on China. About this advisory council, you said that Jack Austin, one of the co-chairs of the China council, remained very excited about this process and thought that it held the key to a higher quality relation of UBC with China, but also to fundraising related to China.
The minutes from the September 12, 2018, meeting of the China council say, “Community engagement and PACC: to complete the President's Advisory Council on China...to incorporate top...societal leaders (and future fundraisers), as this could have tremendous impact in terms of the university's reputation, networks, and fundraising.”
I asked if decisions about awarding honorary degrees were discussed at the council. You said no, but according to the agenda for January 18, 2019, UBC awarded an honorary degree to Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia.
I asked if CSIS had issued warnings about the risks of collaboration with Huawei. You said, not that you were aware of, but on January 22 of last year Paul Evans wrote to you and said, “CSIS has issued warnings already about the risks of research and other collaboration with Huawei in particular.”
Mr. Chair, I'd like to, in light of this, give notice of the following motion:
That the Committee undertake a study of no fewer than four meetings into the relationship between Canadian Universities and Chinese government-controlled entities, and that as part of that study the committee hear from the Co-Chairs of the UBC China Council, and that the Committee report its findings to the House.
This is a notice of motion. I'm not moving the motion, just providing the verbal notice of motion.
Thank you, Mr. Dubourg.
Of course, I'd like to answer. It's an important matter.
I want to first thank the member for those questions.
I want to preface by saying this is really taken out of context. This is picking one little thing out of a hundred others, so you pick a lot of noise.
First, it is not representative of the usual function. Out of 200 interviews I may have given in three years, this one may be the one where I asked for some thoughts, but I received none and I spoke freely afterwards. You must put this in a larger context.
Second, I did say that I had not heard directly from CSIS, but that I had heard from Paul Evans. This is exactly what you find in the emails.
Third, when it comes to the PAC, the presidential advisory council, this is an old idea that goes back to 2014 or 2015. It has been kicked around in the council, but so far, it has led to nothing. Nothing came out of it. Primarily, the idea was to create an advisory group. It's not primarily about fundraising. You picked a little bit of noise here, but we have to look at the primary goal.
I also want to make it clear that the China council played a role in, for example, convincing the president not to have a Confucius Institute at UBC. We did the research. We did interviews with government, and found that this was risky. We pushed back and we advised against having it. We played a role in ensuring the Dalai Lama came to UBC. We are very neutral. We are pretty happy and are very proud of the role we play in hearing all sides. It's very important to state that the elements picked up here were not representative.
There was a discussion, as noted in the emails, about Huawei that was triggered by the hearings with Paul Evans in Ottawa. They were hearings at GAC, not at CSIS, where we heard there were concerns in Ottawa so we did trigger the meeting. The issue was not about managing media. It was about responding to what we heard from government. We had a very fair discussion. We decided to monitor, to watch what was happening and to be very careful.
Also, one consequence of that was that the officer in charge, the vice-president of research, Gail Murphy, went to Ottawa and was briefed. She did it not as a China council member but as vice-president of research, so she is the lead person managing that.