What do Chinese government leaders think of Canada? Can our government correct a policy course that has put Canadian agricultural exports on the ropes and knocked canola and meat out of the globe’s most lucrative economy?
Earlier this week, RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney put these questions to Charles Burton, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad. The University of Brock associate professor specializes in the government and politics of China, Canada-China relations and human rights.
In their conversation, Haney notes that Canada’s one-time strong relationship with China has eroded considerably since it became the first G7 country to begin free trade negotiations with the economic giant. Burton pulled no punches in his assessment.
“I think China sees us as a nation of pushovers,” says Burton who believes China “has been engaging in some outrageous behaviour towards Canada. The import ban of canola was based on entirely spurious grounds. Our canola is a very fine product that none of our other customers have any complaints about whatsoever.”
The banning of Canadian beef and pork was done on similar grounds, and a threat of trade reprisals continue to hang over soybeans and other commodities.
What would Burton do to change the current lopsided course of Canada-China trade relations? He thinks if the Canadian government showed some backbone in engaging in retaliatory measures against China, they would win a measure of respect from Chinese President Xi Jinping and his authoritarian government. (story continues after the interview.)
Burton believes the Canadian government could pursue several courses of action, including slowing Chinese exports based on the need to inspect for fentanyl, the synthetic opioid — an issue U.S. President Donald Trump raised earlier this month. The government could also crackdown on Chinese money laundering within Canada through casinos and real estate, says Burton.
“I think we would gain respect from China if we stood up for Canadian interests in a more proactive way than our current method of quiet diplomacy and passive acceptance of the outrages of the Chinese regime on our economy,” adds Burton.
Haney and Burton dive into how China has been more aggressive and willing to thumb its nose at international agreements and contracts, particularity those agreed to under the World Trade Organization.
Burton also provided historical context for the Chinese regime’s renewed pursuit of global political and economic domination. He notes that China’s leaders are now willing to use politics to restrict agricultural goods to achieve “geostrategic” ends.
Haney and Burton also discuss the potential impact of a slowing Chinese economy and whether its leaders will be able to maintain their political and economic goals. There are also louder cries for better social welfare, education, and health care in a county that still has 100 million people living in poverty. Mass demonstrations in Hong Kong as its citizens fight for individual rights and freedoms, Burton notes, is yet another example of the challenges President Xi faces on the home front.