TORONTO – It may not come as a surprise to China, as the Prime Minister may
claim, but I will bet it does to the Chinese community in the country. Canada is not
going to participate in the Beijing Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics… well, there
will not be any Canadian “diplomatic representation”.
Canada will still allow the participation of its athletes. They have been training for at
least four years and should not be denied the opportunity to compete against “the
best”, says the government by way of justification. If you are wondering, its diplomats
undergo no training for the event, nonetheless, they will provide consular services
and security for the athletes.
Assuming you want to follow the logic, the Chinese authorities, whom we accuse of
long-standing human rights violations against the Uyghur population in Xinjian
province, will let us serve and “protect” our citizens. Again, remember these are
same violators of human rights who have prompted our righteous indignation.
But we cannot let that indignation “hurt” our athletes, what with all their training
(subsidized by the government, it is worthy to note) political objectives need to take
second place to our medal chances. What are those political objects?
We cannot look to the “instant experts” who seem to emerge from the woodwork as
soon as media outlets need a face to legitimize their shopworn statements about:
stopping the growth of authoritarianism, ending the suppression of pro democracy
movements, saving the religious freedoms of Muslim communities in far-off places or
protecting the rights of people to organize themselves as a nation state within a
state. The list goes on.
They all say it is about time to “poke them in the eye”, or “slap them around a little”
without inflicting too much damage on ourselves. It may be time to avenge the three
years during which “the red dragon” imprisoned the two Michaels, they say.
We are more likely to hurt ourselves, or aggravate our own existing, commercial
disadvantage, as the snippet from Statistics Canada above suggests. If one accepts
that NAFTA (USA, Canada, Mexico) is one trading block and that the EU (27
European Union nations) is another, then China is our second most important trading
partner. Third if you ignore those blocks.
We share a complex, evolving relationship with China. Two sectors highlighted in the
same Statistics Canada briefing (modified 2021.02.17)) illustrate this. In 1992, there
were just 2,900 Chinese international students at Canadian post-secondary
institutions; by 2018, there were 81,500 Chinese students, representing 27% of all
international students. There is not a single academic institution unaffected.
Likewise in 1990, Chinese tourists only spent $95 million in Canada, representing a
little over 1% of all tourist spending. In 2018, Chinese tourists spent $5.9 billion in
Canada, or over 17% of all tourist spending.
We should pursue a uniquely Canadian foreign policy. Keep in mind that three years
ago, the Americans asked us to arrest and extradite Meng Wenzhou CFO of Huawei.
China retaliated with the imprisonment of the two Michaels. Whose objectives are we
striving to achieve today?
The USA wants to boycott (via withholding diplomatic representation) the Winter
Olympics. The English-speaking world is being asked to follow suit. President
Biden’s Buy America policies threaten our auto sector and manufacturing base.
Can we resist? Jean Chretien, whose son-in-law ran/runs, oversees the Canada-
China Business Council, though we could. A former colleague of mine, also a junior
Minister during the Chretien years, once defined a Canadian as someone who
is not American.
I wonder if she thinks that the phobia should extend to Chinese