Good afternoon, honourable members.
I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 20 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Pursuant to the motion adopted on January 31, the committee is meeting today on its study of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait.
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A reminder that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair.
Colleagues, I would now like to welcome our first panel of witnesses back before the committee, and thank them for agreeing to return.
We have before us today Professor Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese studies and director, Lau China Institute, at King's College London; and Professor Steve Tsang, professor, SOAS University of London.
Welcome to the committee, both of you.
Also joining us is Professor André Laliberté, from the University of Ottawa. He will be listening in to the discussion with the first panel, but we will not hear from him until our second hour.
Welcome, Professor Laliberté.
Colleagues, with that we will turn to Professor Brown and Professor Tsang, in sequence, for opening statements of five minutes each.
Professor Brown, the floor is yours. Please go ahead.
Thanks for inviting me today.
I suppose the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has made people think a bit more urgently about what the People's Republic of China's view might be towards some kind of resolution on the Republic of China, on Taiwan. This is a long-expected and feared issue.
Under the current leader, Xi Jinping, there has been, I suppose, an intensification of the idea that this is China's historic moment, that it's following a particular kind of narrative of its history and that part of this will be this idea of unification—that China is not complete and whole and it, therefore, needs to reappropriate what once belonged to it. That's the historical narrative, of course. That narrative is extremely contested, and I'm sure we could talk about that later, if people wish.
Xi Jinping, since 2014, has unambiguously said that the framework of talking about economic collaboration, of the softer kind of societal collaboration, between the two sides of the strait is not enough. He made a comment in 2014, I believe, to a visiting former Taiwanese political leader, that you can't keep on pushing this issue down the road and that at some point there will have to be a resolution.
Under the previous president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, in 2015, Xi Jinping actually held a bilateral meeting—the first since 1949—between the leaders of the two places. There seemed to be some kind of political momentum towards something, but under Tsai Ing-wen, who was elected 18 months later, because she represents the democratic, progressive party, she's regarded as a bit more antagonistic and independence supporting by Beijing. That kind of dialogue between China and Taiwan has definitely become much more difficult.
Part of that is because of the international situation. Part of it is because of relations between China and the United States becoming much tougher. Part of it has also been because of the deteriorating situation since the onset of COVID, although in some ways that's had impacts on everything, and part of it, I suppose, is because of this intensification of Xi Jinping's leadership, as he has continued in power, of a sort of nationalistic core.
It used to be that we assumed that in China it was all about the economics—“it's the economy, stupid”—but I believe it would be better to say, “It's identity, stupid.” Identity is a really crucial issue. On the cultural issues of identity and China's being a great, powerful, strong country on the global stage, this issue of Taiwan has become more domestically important for the Beijing leadership.
Finally, on the issue of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the appalling scenes we've seen there over the last couple of months and what this means for the issue of cross-strait relations, in some ways it has probably made the Beijing leadership, one assumes, much more circumspect about what an invasion entails and what military actions are. We have to remember that China has not had combat experience properly for many decades: Vietnam in 1979, but that was very limited; and probably really only in the Korean War, which was 70 years ago.
It has a big military, but it has not really used it beyond its borders, so when it sees a relatively experienced actor like Russia—with the Soviet Union being in Afghanistan for almost a decade—having such massive issues as it undertakes its operations in Ukraine, I suppose the Chinese leadership have to pause and think about this. An amphibious landing is not easy. I believe the last one was during the Second World War. It's a huge undertaking.
The second thing is that it will look at this and think of the “hearts and minds” issue, the fact that 23 million Taiwanese definitely don't see themselves remotely as having a wholly Chinese identity—surveys have proved that again and again—and the fact that they'll be facing a huge issue even if they were, heaven forbid, to think about military options.
The final point I'll make about that nationalistic kind of dynamic is that it's not easy to see it going away. If leadership have put so much into the idea of identity being the key thing, then the 2049 deadline is a very real one. The idea of what reunification might mean in the abstract, and I stress “in the abstract”, is very urgent. It is not likely that this particular leadership will radically change their minds about the idea for 2049, which is the 100th anniversary of the foundation of People's Republic of China. It's a big event, obviously. This has to be marked in some enormously important way. That obviously would involve Taiwan.
I don't see that disappearing. There are many ways you could talk about what would be possible within the parameters of reunification, but I think politically the commitment to reunification in the abstract will not go away in Beijing, even though it gets more and more difficult to imagine what that could possibly be, if you look from Taiwan's perspective, beyond a complete rejection of it.
Thank you very much.
First of all, thank you very much for inviting me.
Let me start off by saying that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is very tense, of course, but I do not see a war as something that is imminent. The war in Ukraine is a hugely important subject for Taiwan, and indeed for Beijing. Both capitals are looking at what happens in Ukraine and beyond to draw lessons and indeed to see what lessons the other side is drawing, and to try to, therefore, frame their own policy on that basis.
Let me perhaps start on the Taiwan side first. For the Taiwanese, they really want to see how western support for Ukraine goes and what lessons China will draw. Here I think we're looking at both military and economic issues. In terms of the military issue, the kind of incredibly imaginative way the Ukrainians have been doing this, and the supply and support that western countries have been giving Ukraine, have proven very important and valuable in getting the Taiwanese to think about what they should do.
They are also thinking about what lessons the Chinese are drawing. I think the obvious lessons for the Chinese on the military side is that the Russians really went in without proper planning and preparation. The Chinese will make sure that they will not make that mistake again themselves. It doesn't mean that the Chinese will change their determination about Taiwan.
In terms of the economic side, the important lessons here that both sides are drawing are in terms of what unity western nations have demonstrated in their response to Ukraine. The questions therefore would be this: Would the west, led by the United States, be able to respond in a similar way in the event of a Taiwan Strait crisis? Would the western sanctions on Russia, particularly over the Russian foreign exchange reserve, be something that could be applied to China? If similar kinds of sanctions on Russia were being contemplated for China, what kind of damage would it do to both sides? Would it be able to provide any kind of deterrence against China?
Shifting very quickly to the Chinese side, I think the key lesson they are drawing is quite simply this: Militarily, we can deal with it; we simply will get ourselves much better prepared.
In terms of the economic ones, it is a much more serious issue. It is still early stage in terms of whether western unity can hold. If western unity cannot hold, then they will draw very different kinds of lessons from it. In terms of what the endgame for Ukraine will be, if the endgame for Ukraine is essentially a Eurocentric one, then the Chinese will draw one set of lessons. If they see the endgame of Ukraine as a more global approach to seeing the issue, they will draw a very different set of conclusions. That could potentially deter the Chinese.
I will stop here.
Professor Tsang, thank you very much for your opening remarks.
Colleagues, just before we go into our first round, I want to remind our witnesses, and members also, of the method that we use to facilitate time keeping. It's very basic, but it's effective. It's a 30-second card that I will hold up, both in the room and also on camera, just to signal that your speaking time or questioning time is about to lapse. The allocations of time are very carefully negotiated among the whips and, in some cases, are as short as two and a half minutes.
If witnesses and colleagues could keep an eye on the time, that would assist the conversation greatly.
We will start with round one in six-minute segments.
Leading us off is Mr. Chong. Please, go ahead.
If I may, I think the sanctions, the speed with which those sanctions were imposed and the scale of them by North America and Europe in particular—and Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand—were a surprise. I think China will look at this, and it will make them think a bit.
We have to remember, those sanctions are not ones that Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and many other countries have joined. It has kind of made these geopolitical divisions between what I suppose we would call “the west and the rest” very evident.
I guess, also, that China will not welcome.... Of course, when Xi Jinping met Putin on February 4, they issued a joint communiqué. If you look at the language of that joint communiqué, it is very Chinese in terms of joint co-operation and it's very abstract. What Putin and Xi said to each other and how much Putin did say of what he was planning to Xi has been very controversial. It seems that the consensus is that he didn't really say much at all.
Although China has been neutral yet very friendly towards Russia, I don't think this situation in Ukraine is good for it. It doesn't want this kind of problem. It's destabilizing, and the way it's impacting on the global economy is unwelcome.
On the other hand, I'm sure it's not unhappy to see the west tripped up and distracted by this issue. That will probably be something that reinforces this narrative that China is on a winning streak, that the west is just busy fighting itself and that Europe is busy killing other Europeans. This is a narrative that's being reinforced by this.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for their opening statements.
I'm very pleased to have you at our committee today. I would begin by saying what an honour it was to attend Taiwan night last night among many friends, including Representative Chen. Of course, many of us were there to stand in solidarity with Taiwan and the Taiwanese people, particularly in light of what we saw come out today in the news regarding ongoing military drills.
I'll take you to that, Dr. Tsang. On May 6 of this year, 18 aircraft, I believe, including fighter jets and bombers, entered Taiwan's air defence zone, prompting the scrambling of many Taiwanese jets in response. This week, on May 10, I believe, the United States Director of National Intelligence told the Senate's armed services committee:
It is our view that [the Chinese] are working hard to effectively put themselves into a position in which their military is capable of taking Taiwan over our intervention.
Gentlemen, I wonder if you could speak to this ongoing effort. Just today, the National Post referred to further military drills having been concluded in the southwest and southeast parts of the island.
Dr. Tsang, you made a parallel with the invasion by Russia of Ukraine, saying that China is closely watching the situation and would not make the same mistake as Russia in terms of not carefully planning any invasion.
I would put the question to you this way. Do you not see the consistent military drills being a form of planning?
Xi Jinping will do whatever it takes to take Taiwan. Because of the way he is using his own rhetoric and because of his own poor understanding of history.... Xi Jinping is somebody who doesn't know that the Communist Party of China, historically was one of the strongest and long-standing advocates of Taiwan's independence. Now if you say that, he would put one into jail for committing a crime of historical nihilism.
Now, what will he actually do? He will build up the necessary force that he thinks is needed to overtake Taiwan and to deter the United States from interfering, but calculating that the Americans potentially cannot be deterred and, therefore, will have to take out significant American forces as a way to push the Americans back.
I think he likes to talk much more simply in terms of national unification, but Taiwan is much bigger than the matter of national unification. Taiwan is strategically critical to China's overall global strategy. Taiwan is right in the middle of the first island chain, and it can only be taken by either deterring the Americans or defeating the Americans. With that being achieved, the Americans will effectively be pushed into the middle of the Pacific Ocean, fulfilling what Xi Jinping told President Obama in 2013 in Sunnylands, that the Pacific Ocean is a very big place and it's big enough for two—stick to your side and I will stick to mine.
In that scenario, we are looking at a fundamental change in the politics of the Indo-Pacific. ASEAN-10 would all have to do their deals with China, and so would South Korea. Japan will either have to go nuclear or do a deal with China, because Japan could no longer count on the U.S.-Japan defence treaty.
That will fundamentally establish Chinese hegemony in that part of the world, and basically remove the United States as an effective leader of the world. It is—
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today and for sharing their experience and research with us.
In the 's mandate letter, the asks her to “[d]evelop and launch a comprehensive Indo-Pacific strategy to deepen diplomatic, economic and defence partnerships and international assistance in the region…”. It is a fact that Taiwan plays a very important role and is inextricably intertwined with the global economy. Taiwan is Canada's 11th largest trading partner, the fifth largest in Asia.
The Government of Canada is currently negotiating an investment agreement with Taiwan and has said that it would support Taiwan's admission to a number of international organizations. Canada has already expressed its support for the admission of Taiwan as an observer to the World Health Organization, or WHO, and the World Health Assembly. However, on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Liberal members objected to Taiwan's participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, even though Taiwan is a major aviation hub in the Asia-Pacific region and follows ICAO standards and practices despite not being a member.
My first question is this. How do you explain the federal government's hot and cold attitude towards Taiwan's admission to certain international organizations?
Here's my second question. The People's Republic of China, or PRC, and Taiwan asked, within a week of one another, to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, in late September 2021. We know that the PRC is less than upright in its adherence to international rules and that, if it were to join the CPTPP first, Taiwan would be permanently shut out of the partnership. Consequently shouldn't Canada support Taiwan's accession to the partnership first?
It seems like the first point is really about issues within Canada. Taiwan has wanted to join the international organizations for some time, and there was a brief time under Ma Ying-jeou about 10 to 12 years ago when it was a bit more flexible on China's side, but that time's over. China is definitely more and more aggressive in showing that Taiwan doesn't have international space, and that's the strategy.
My only response to the second issue is that every country has to face a quandary. You have to decide how important the Chinese economy and the market in China are, and how much you want to jeopardize that, because China is more willing to push back and say no to partners now, if you want to engage with Taiwan. It's a high-risk business, and that's not an easy decision, because under Xi Jinping, I think there's greater clarity. There's no ambiguity now. You can't sit on the wall. You have to basically play with one or the other. I think this is strategically probably what Beijing is most likely to do—freeze Taiwan's position and make it more difficult in the international community. It has instruments to do that.
It is possible for people to say they'll go with Taiwan, but I guess the only thing they have to consider is that there are obviously quite high costs to that now, not just with security but economically. I wouldn't be blasé about that, because, obviously, economically the world is in a very difficult position now. That's the only thing I would really stress. Yes, you can make these choices to say you'll go with Taiwan rather than the PRC, but there will be increasingly high costs to that, and those shouldn't be obscured.
I missed part of the first question, because I was slow in finding the English channel for that.
I think that both questions are really asking about the same issue, whether we're talking about the CPTPP or the international organizations for Taiwan to participate in. There are two issues here. One is that the Chinese government will use its economic leverage to make other countries follow what its government wants to do over Taiwan. If you like, they will come out and bully you if they can get away with it, and they think they will.
The second question, therefore, is this: How can something like this be responded to effectively? Apart from the United States of America, I don't think there is any one country that is at the moment strong enough and powerful enough to be able to, on its own, stand up to the Chinese government and not get punished. The U.S. can do that because China cannot afford to bully the U.S.A. yet. If Canada can unite or coordinate with a significant number of major trading economies that believe in your value system and in doing the right thing, then it can be done, because collectively, you are bigger than China, and they cannot punish you.
Collectively, you can do that. Until you can do that—
I would like to thank our witnesses for being here. This is very fascinating and very interesting testimony.
Perhaps I'll follow up on some of the comments that Mr. Bergeron has made before me, and give Dr. Tsang a moment to complete his comments.
The New Democrats have advocated as well for Taiwan's inclusion and meaningful participation in several multilateral institutions and meetings, including, of course, the World Health Assembly and the International Civil Aviation Organization. The reason that I have advocated for that is that I do believe that Taiwan has those valuable experiences that they can contribute to areas of global health, particularly how the pandemic was dealt with, as well as with regard to aviation safety and security. Monsieur Bergeron mentioned the importance of aviation and Taiwan.
I'd love to hear more comments from you, particularly, Dr. Tsang to start with, and then Dr. Brown, if I could. You talk about China bullying and the need to work with allies. You talk about the need for us to work collectively. What I take from that is that Canada should be liaising more with some of those other economies to make these decisions collaboratively.
Can you talk a little bit from the other side about what there is to gain if Taiwan is able to participate in these multilateral institutions and meetings?
I think Taiwan has a huge amount to contribute to the international community. Looking simply at health and the COVID pandemic, Taiwan was one of the very first governments that sounded the alarm bell. If we had listened, we might have been able to contain the pandemic at the beginning of that process. We didn't do that. The rest is, as they say, history.
We are talking about a very significant medium power. If we use European countries as a yardstick, Taiwan is right in the middle of the EU countries in terms of its capacity and scope for innovation and change, and it's been quite a believable international citizen, so there's every reason to do that.
I think there's something even more important for doing that, which is that, for all the problems of the international liberal order, it is basically a rules-based order that is catering more to the kinds of values that as democracies we believe in. The Chinese government is working to change that, and by forcing governments to play by Chinese rules, it is also changing how international organizations, including the UN, function. That is not a direction of travel we should want to see.
I'll stop here and hand it back to you.
I want to thank the witnesses for coming and giving us such very frank and insightful answers.
What I want to ask is this: With Japan making clear statements about its concern over Taiwan and what is going on in that area of the straits, and Australia standing up for it.... Taiwan has lost quite a few of its allies, people who traded with it and were standing up for it. It's now down to about 14 clear-cut countries that are still trying to work with Taiwan.
Do you feel that things will change, given that 24 European nations supported Canada with the Michael Spavor and Michael Korvig thing? They came to stand at the court, and they came to speak out on that issue. Do you think that Europe, seeing the links between Ukraine and Putin right now, would begin to become a lot more aware of what could happen and begin to listen to Japan, which is a G7 country that may be very concerned about what's going on there for its own sake?
That's what I'm wondering. Do you think that those things are making people focus a little quietly on what's going on? The buzzing of warships and planes in the strait surrounding Taiwan is also something that Russia had done when it entered Crimea and when it started to do all of its manoeuvres, etc. It may very well be that it is a message that China is giving.
My question is this: What is going to happen with the Indo-Pacific region? Where's India going to go? Where is South Korea going to go when we start lining up and forming alliances, if anything begins to happen there?
The clerk is telling me that is the case.
Is there any other commentary on the budget, colleagues? If not, I would ask for your approval, or at least see if there's any objection, either virtually or in the room.
Seeing none, Madam Clerk, we have approved the budget. I will be happy to deliver the message tomorrow that there is unanimous support from the committee for these travel plans. Thank you very much.
Colleagues, with that, we would like to welcome our second panel this afternoon.
Joining us is André Laliberté, full professor at the school of political studies, in the faculty of social sciences, and the research chair in Taiwan studies at the University of Ottawa.
We also have Joseph Wong, Roz and Ralph Halbert professor of innovation, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and professor of political science at the University of Toronto.
Welcome to the committee, both of you. We will give each of you five minutes for your opening statements and then engage in the discussion with members.
Professor Laliberté, you can go ahead with your opening statement. The floor is yours.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging the work of Weldon Epp, director general of the north Asia and Oceania branch, and Jordan Reeves, the executive director of the Canadian trade office in Taipei. They are doing a great job representing our interests in Asia at a challenging time.
I followed the proceedings closely when they appeared before the committee in February. I am saddened to see that the scenario discussed then has now become reality, with Russia's aggression in Ukraine, which has been going on for more than two months already.
I realize that the senior officials who implement our policies prefer not to speculate, but developing policies means considering various scenarios. The one that concerns us today involves aggression by the PRC against Taiwan. I want to take a moment to stress the importance of terminology here. This is not about reunification, as the Chinese government purports; it is about an irredentist claim to subjugate a sovereign state, pure and simple. After all, Taiwan has never been part of the PRC.
Military action against Taiwan would deeply upset the stability of value chains in the crucial semiconductor sector and, without a doubt, impact the global economy. Such an attack would represent a serious threat to democratic regimes in Asia and shift the strategic balance in ways we can neither foresee nor easily manage.
It is essential not to incur that risk. Avoiding it means making absolutely clear that such action would be illegal under international law, regardless of the anti-secession law passed by the National People's Congress of China. I hope that Canada will be as quick to stand with Taiwan in support of its right to self-determination as it was for Ukraine, and rightfully so.
Some may not see that comparison as valid because, unlike Ukraine, Taiwan does not enjoy diplomatic recognition by the international community. I would point out, however, that Taiwan is a sovereign state according to the criteria set out in the Montevideo convention: it has a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states.
First, Taiwan has been permanently inhabited by indigenous peoples, who arrived long before the first Chinese settlers. They set foot in Taiwan at the same time that the Europeans arrived here, on Turtle Island.
Second, Taiwan not only controls its territory, but has also harnessed the resources of that territory to become the world's 25th largest economy. In addition, Taiwan has equipped itself with the capacity to defend its territory by spending a significant amount on defence, with the 22nd largest military budget in the world.
Third, Taiwan has not just a functioning government, but also a government whose legitimacy is unchallenged. The same cannot be said of the country across the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan's government is chosen through competitive elections in what has long been considered Asia's most democratic regime.
Fourth and finally, through the tireless efforts of its representatives, Taiwan has demonstrated its capacity to enter into relations with other states. Over the years, those representatives have shown exceptional professionalism in the face of China's sustained efforts to force the rest of the world not to recognize the country that Taiwan represents.
The basic premise of the entire discussion on China–Taiwan relations is that peace depends on dialogue between the two parties. Taiwan initiated the dialogue in 1991, when President Lee Teng‑Hui declared that the Republic of China in Taiwan was renouncing all claims to the territory governed by the People's Republic.
Since coming to power, President Tsai Ing‑wen has been equally pragmatic, adopting the same attitude. Since the beginning, the Chinese Communist Party has been the one refusing to engage in any dialogue, imposing its own conditions.
No matter what political scenarios are being considered in the medium-term in Taiwan, one thing is for certain: Taiwan's citizens no longer believe China's promises under the “one country, two systems” arrangement. Polls clearly show that the majority of Taiwan's population identifies as Taiwanese, not Chinese or half-and-half.
The continued refusal to legally recognize the nation of Taiwan significantly jeopardizes the validity of international law, when countries yield to a position of power rather than respecting the principles on which that law is based.
Thank you very much. This is truly an honour and privilege for me to be able to speak in front of this committee.
I'm actually Zooming in from Accra, Ghana, right now, so you'll have to forgive me if the connection is a little wonky at times. I will do my best.
Let me begin by saying that it's very clear that Taiwan and its fate are central to the legitimation formula of the authoritarian regime in Beijing. As noted by Kerry and Steve before, the very fate of Taiwan and the ability of the Communist Party in China to make claims on Taiwan and to eventually unify it with the mainland are absolutely essential to the legitimation formula for that regime. In other words, as Kerry points out, the identity politics trumps, in many cases, the economic politics.
This puts Taiwan in a very precarious situation, and I would suggest to you, in an even more precarious situation as time passes, because on the one hand it means there is less and less space for Taiwan to manoeuvre in the international arena, and we have seen tremendous effort by the regime in Beijing to limit this space for Taiwan.
It comes, however, precisely at the time when support for Taiwan internationally, I would suggest to you, is at one of its all-time highs. About 10 years ago I'm reminded that Charles Glaser wrote a very influential piece in various foreign policy magazines in the United States, suggesting that perhaps that was the time for the United States to let Taiwan go, and that this was increasingly a problem for American foreign policy. That was 10 years ago, and increasingly that seems to be a very antiquated view of Taiwan.
Indeed, Taiwan presents itself to the world, I would suggest to you, as the paragon of democracy. It leads the region in terms of women's participation in politics, including the election of the president for two terms. Taiwan presents a model to the industrial world in terms of social policy. Its national health insurance program is a model that countries should emulate, and in terms of its progressive policies with respect to the LBGTQ community and so forth.
I also believe that Taiwan has lots to offer in terms of its lessons with respect to relations with its indigenous peoples, and I think there are plenty of opportunities for Canada to continue to collaborate with Taiwan on that front.
Of course Taiwan is an extraordinary economy, and we have seen that any blockages in the global supply chain, particularly as it relates to the semiconductor sector, can be crippling. It presents a strategic value that I think is quite unprecedented.
However, I say this to say that there is less and less space for Taiwan to manoeuvre, precisely at the time when Taiwan's value and the stakes of Taiwan's future is higher than ever before, which means the possibility of conflict, and the stakes of that conflict are ever more dire.
The question I want to contemplate, then, is this: What do we do with China? It strikes me that one way out of this very difficult situation is to increase the prospects for China and the Chinese regime to entertain the prospects of democratic transition.
Here I want to offer some reflections on this. Professor Laliberté, I think, has done an extraordinary job of describing to us the situation in Taiwan, and I want to talk a little bit about China.
The conventional wisdom in our theories of democratic transition is that democracies will emerge from the ashes of collapsed regimes, that we look for and wait for regimes to crumble under the weight of their own illegitimacy, and from that, then, democracy emerges. That is indeed one way in which democracy has emerged in a lot of the world.
However, the modal pathway for democratic transition in Asia, actually, is not democracy emerging from the ashes of a collapsed regime, but, rather, democracy emerging through the leadership of strong political parties. Indeed, Taiwan is the best example of this. The KMT was a regime that democratized during the late 1980s and into the early 1990s precisely at a time when it was weakening, but it was still a very strong political party. It was a party that was very confident. In other words, democracy proved to be incentive-compatible for this authoritarian regime.
This is a paradox, because what I'm essentially arguing here is that precisely at the time in which a regime is strong and it has little reason to democratize is also the best time for a regime to entertain democratic transition, because it's probably going to lead to the most stable democratic transition. I think everyone would agree that no matter what you think of the regime in Beijing, no one wishes for a regime that collapses, because under the weight of that collapse we're talking about potentially 1.4 billion people suffering.
That's the paradox here. What we should then think about are the implications of this, particularly as they relate to our own foreign policy and how we think about China.
First is that we ought not to wish for the collapse of China and we ought not to wish for the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party regime. I think that would be disastrous for a good portion of humanity.
Second is that it doesn't seem to me that isolation is in any way going to provide the kinds of inducements or incentives for the Chinese regime to entertain democratic transition. In fact, we know that isolationism will likely increase the authoritarian measures employed by the regime.
Third, and this is the most important, is that we should be thinking about the prospects of democracy in China being the result of strategic inducements on the part of the rest of the international community. The recognition that democracy is indeed incentive-compatible with the authoritarian regime, and that democratization of the regime is something that would not lead to the collapse of China....
It's through this that we can open up the political space for more opportunities on how we might be able to continue to recognize Taiwan as the sovereign democracy that it is.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today. I appreciate their insightful comments.
I would like to make a small clarification regarding something Ms. Fry alluded to, Europe's so‑called lack of interest in Taiwan. I just want to point out that, in November 2021, Europe sent a delegation to Taipei. I take that as a sign that the Europeans do have some interest in Taiwan.
I have to tell you, Professor Laliberté, that I was delighted to hear you talk about the criteria set out in the Montevideo convention to define statehood, or a sovereign state. I thought to myself how Quebec met all of those criteria. No doubt, we'll have a chance to discuss that another time.
I was fascinated when you spoke of Taiwan's commitment to no longer represent all of China. Polls show that the people of Taiwan now feel more Taiwanese than Chinese.
Before I get to my question, I'd like to share an anecdote, if you don't mind.
I was in a U.S. airport once and I stumbled upon a group of people who were clearly Chinese. I could tell from the conversations they were having, but after a while, I realized that there were two groups within the larger group and that they were not speaking to one another. I tried to figure out what was going on. You'll tell me that the same thing happens when Parisians are around people from other parts of France. In any case, I noticed that the members of one of the groups had passports from the People's Republic of China, and the members of the other group had passports from the Republic of China.
That brings me to my question.
It seems that something of a legal fiction has existed since nationalist leader Tchang Kaï‑chek found refuge on the island of Formosa, where the Taiwanese government claimed to represent all of China, while in western China, the People's Republic of China, claimed, and still claims, to represent all of China.
Given the fact that the Taiwanese feel less and less like Chinese and more and more like Taiwanese, how do you square Taiwan's renouncing the claim that it represents all of China with the fact that the country is still formally called the Republic of China?
That's a terrific question, actually.
I wanted to go back, if I might, on the question of strategic ambiguity just for a moment. The concept worked very well for the time, because it really was a way of talking about strategic engagement. When strategic ambiguity first emerged in U.S. foreign policy circles it was a very comfortable dual mission of both engaging with China, particularly economically, but with the aim of some hope for prospects of some kind of transformation. That was the sort of ambiguity. I think the reason why it has less purchase these days is that in fact China has sharpened its view of what strategic ambiguity is and has made very clear that, in its world, it really is a binary world between the autocratic world and the democratic world. Therefore, they've taken that agenda from our own strategic ambit.
The point I'm trying to make is that we ought not to think that democracy and talking about democracy, be it in Taiwan or in a prospective China, is necessarily antagonistic. If we can reclaim that balance, actually, we can reclaim the kind of strategic ambiguity that allowed us to do that work for a long time.
With respect to Taiwan's democracy, I think in fact this is one of the main ways in which Canada can continue to support Taiwan. When I talk to Taiwanese officials, particularly those in the foreign service, I continually stress that ways to collaborate with Canada would be in areas that are related to the SDGs and that are related in terms of public health. Are there lessons that can be shared with us in terms of pandemic preparedness? We know that Taiwan made enormous strides in the post-SARS world and in fact provides now tremendous lessons to the rest of the world.
Again, I've talked to our colleagues in Taiwan about more engagement around indigenous issues, reconciliation and TRC, and so forth. These are areas that will strengthen and knit together Canada and Taiwanese society more robustly and, frankly, in ways that are going to contribute to the strength of Taiwan's democracy and the resilience of the democracy over time.
I think eight years ago I would have thought.... In looking at the tea leaves at the time, certainly there was a school of thought, in looking at Xi Jinping and his consolidation of power, that this was a preamble for potentially a kind of political liberalization that we saw in Taiwan, that we saw in Korea in the 1980s and that we saw in post-war Japan as well.
I'm less and less optimistic that this is the case, precisely because now so many of the issues that have arisen in China are so central to the legitimation of the Chinese Communist Party regime. That worries me however, because, as we look for cracks in the regime and for the potential collapse of a regime, that will definitely ensure that democracy does not emerge, which will potentially be disastrous.
I think there are still ways in which we can try to make the case, the positive inducements, that democracy is not incompatible with the Chinese Communist Party—in fact, just as the KMT did in Taiwan. It democratized. It won elections. It continued to govern for about a decade. It ceded power when it lost, just like any other democratic party. Taiwan continues to be stable.
If that scenario could be painted out for our colleagues in China and for some progressive thinkers within China, I don't think it's impossible. I hope for that simply because of the way in which we're going right now. As I prefaced my comments, the space for Taiwan is becoming less and less. The stakes over Taiwan are becoming higher and higher. That means that the prospects of conflict become ever more dire.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Professor Laliberté, first, I want to thank you for being with us today. I listened to your testimony with great interest. Like the other members of this committee, I'm grateful to you for bringing to our attention the proper terms that we should be using.
In a similar vein, I'd like to address how China alludes to the constitutional principle of “one country, two systems” to allay Taiwan's fears that its democratic system and traditions cannot survive under Chinese control.
We all know what's happening in Hong Kong right now. We have seen the Chinese crack down on the democratic process and freedom of expression, among other things.
In your opinion, what impact will the events in Hong Kong have on the situation between China and Taiwan?
Thank you very much for the question.
For one thing, it's not a constitutional principle. The phrase “one country, two systems” is a political statement. It's a political statement that Xi Jinping has simply decided to reject. He's given up on this principle because that's no longer his goal. The real goal is now the annexation of Taiwan.
On the other hand, if Taiwan is annexed, it won't be to let Taiwan be an autonomous region with a different regime, a democratic regime. In fact, it will be to make Taiwan another Chinese province.
Like my colleague Joseph Wong, I am very pessimistic about this.
If we were in another reality, that is, if Xi Jinping were to resign, if he were not to return as leader of the Communist Party, people would wonder whether that would result in a reform process in the party. That would be the ideal scenario, but there's little chance of that happening.
Thank you very much, Professor Wong.
Thank you, Ms. Bendayan. Your time is up.
Hon. colleagues, allow me to thank the expert witnesses for appearing before the committee this afternoon.
Professor Laliberté and Professor Wong, we thank you for your testimony and for sharing your expertise.
Thank you so much for being with us. It's greatly appreciated. We will allow you to disconnect.
Colleagues, I have a raised hand. There's a point of order.
Briefly, Ms. Sudds, please go ahead.