Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Letter: No point in talking to China

May 8, 2009

The Edmonton Journal
May 3, 2009
Re: "Canada needs a better policy on China;
Harper will have to engage Beijing's leaders personally if he hopes to make up for years of neglect,"
by Wenran Jiang, Ideas,
April 22, 2009

(See a reference below, WTNN editor)

This article misses the point. Stockwell Day did not have a successful mission in East Asia, if indeed he even had a mission. He opened some trade offices and broke ground for a Canadian-funded reconstruction of a senior's home levelled in last year's earthquake. How is that a successful trade mission? How does that show "unprecedented enthusiasm for forging closer economic ties with China"?

Canada is doing all the work and giving aid to a country that is doing better financially than we are. And what are the guarantees that our funds will be used responsibly?

The real story here is why Canada should bother to try to placate the Chinese. What do we get in return?

The world hungers for the massive market that is China, but the trade imbalance is such that we are the consumers, not them. They don't buy goods made in Canada. They buy our raw natural resources and sell questionable products back to us. These products are made at a fraction of the cost of our own, so we lose jobs in our country. I avoid buying Chinese goods whenever possible.

In regard to human rights, and Jiang's claim that "Canada has done very little since 2006," what has Canada ever done? Have we helped bring democracy to China? Have we spoken out for the Tibetans? Have we helped Falun Gong, whose members, according to David Kilgour, are being sent to prison where their organs are ripped out of their bodies for transplantation? I don't think so.

Jiang writes, "Ottawa suspended the annual bilateral human-rights dialogue, saying it was not effective." Good for us. It is a waste of time talking to Beijing. It has no interest in human rights.

Jaing also states that "ignoring China has cost us jobs." They are using Bombardier trains to flood the Tibetan plateau with massive numbers of Han Chinese to dilute the Tibetan population. So we got some jobs there, but at what price? I have been to Tibet and seen what is happening there and it is abominable. Tibetan farmers have been using the same practices for hundreds of years. They are getting no benefit from the alleged massive amounts of money being poured into their areas. The money goes to build highways to help move the troops in to subjugate the indigenous population.

China's oppression of its own people is a matter of record.

I have no hope in any constructive and honest dialogue or interaction with the Chinese government. I believe that the change that is necessary in China will come from the people themselves, when they finally understand their own reality. And with the current rampant corruption, and the gross human-rights violations, the Chinese people may be ready to stand up for themselves.

Our job is to be ready to help them. We don't need to engage in trade missions with corrupt governments.

Carol Tomlinson, Edmonton

Canada needs a better policy on China
Harper will have to engage Beijing's leaders personally if he hopes to make up for years of neglect
 By Wenran Jiang
The Edmonton Journal
April 22, 2009
Let's give International Trade Minister Stockwell Day credit for his successful mission to East Asia. The highlights included opening six new Canadian trade offices across China, and breaking the ground for the Canadian-funded reconstruction of a seniors' home that was levelled in China's devastating earthquake last year.

As Canada's top-security-guard-turned-top-salesman, Day showed unprecedented enthusiasm for forging closer economic ties with China, now Canada's second-largest trading partner. Yet he insisted that there are no fundamental shifts in the Conservative government's China policy.

Day is partly right, in the sense that the Conservatives never had a clearly articulated China policy to begin with. Former Canadian ambassador to the United States, Derek Burney, has characterized Prime Minister Stephen Harper's China policy as "juvenile" -- implying immaturity as the cause of the problem.

The reality of the Conservatives' China policy in the past three years is more like being infected by an ideological tumour. It did not lead to brain death, largely due to former international trade and foreign minister David Emerson's persistent efforts to engage China within the cabinet. He was right, but was almost a lone voice in the Harper top circle. As a result, the body of Canadian national interests has suffered.

The first casualty is in fact human rights. Unlike the commonly accepted perception that this government has emphasized human rights issues since coming to power, the record shows that Canada has done very little in promoting human rights in China since 2006.

Ottawa suspended the annual bilateral human rights dialogue, saying it was not effective, thus throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The House of Commons committee on human rights pursued a lengthy hearing that led nowhere, produced nothing tangible and became a disappointment even for human rights groups.

With the Conservatives removing China from their foreign policy priority list, Canada's economic relations with the world's fastest growing market have not kept pace with other industrialized countries, losing trade and investment shares. It is evident, now more than ever, that ignoring China has cost Canadians jobs that would have otherwise been created with an active, engaging strategy at the highest level.

And Harper's suspension of mutual summit visits with China since 2006 has made Canada totally out of sync with other world powers -- all of them have annual regular summit diplomacy with Beijing. Thus, Harper stands alone and has no effective means of engaging the emerging superpower on important issues such as environment, global warming, and many regional issues vital to Canada's economic and security wellbeing.

Now Stockwell Day has openly reversed Harper's infamous quote on not selling out human rights for the mighty dollar by declaring that trade and rights are not mutually exclusive goals in dealing with China. This is a good step in the right direction.

But it's too early to conclude that the Harperites have come to terms with China's reality. The Conservatives must make strides in the following areas to make up lost ground in China.

In the short term, Harper must resume summit diplomacy by going to Beijing, a long overdue trip to reciprocate Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Canada in the fall of 2005. He may send more ministers to China or open more trade offices, but they are all marginal measures in contrast to personally engaging the Chinese leadership at the highest level.

Ottawa's medium goal is to formulate a non-partisan China vision and strategy that treats our relationship with Beijing as no less important than our ties with Washington. It is tunnel vision for those who advocate better Chinese language skills of Canadian diplomats in the Beijing embassy as solutions to advance Canadian interests in China.

Instead, Canada must work actively to re-establish the strategic partnership that the two countries announced in 2005. In addition to regular summit meetings, Canadian interests will be best served with a number of high-level annual bilateral dialogues on issues ranging from trade to investment to security to climate change to human rights.

And Canada's long-term China policy goal is to design a series of programs that not only serve our own interests but also assist reform-oriented forces in the Chinese society and within the Chinese government to move China toward more openness, more transparency and more respect for human rights.

Wenran Jiang is an associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank