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Canada Terry Glavin: Justin Trudeau went all in on China a decade ago — and nothing can shake his resolve

23:41  24 september  2021
23:41  24 september  2021 Source:   nationalpost.com

Trudeaus agreed to father's book being published by Chinese Communist-run company in 2005

  Trudeaus agreed to father's book being published by Chinese Communist-run company in 2005 It turns out a 2016 edition of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s memoirs was not his family’s first foray into Chinese state-run book publishing. In 2005, a Communist Party-affiliated company won the family’s approval — and a preface from brother Sacha Trudeau — for a Chinese-language edition of a book their father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, co-authored in the 1960s. China experts differed Wednesday on why a publisher there would be interested in Two Innocents in Red China 50 years after the fact, suggesting it was either out of admiration for Pierre Trudeau — or to curry favour with his prominent sons.

In the way the story’s usually told, relations between Canada and China are said to be at the lowest point in decades, or at an all-time low, or chillier than ever. But any close examination of the relationship will show that what these expressions more precisely describe is an ongoing, abject humiliation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government by China’s capricious and sadistic supreme ruler, Xi Jinping.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, gestures to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing in 2016. © Provided by National Post Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, gestures to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing in 2016.

It’s been a very public humiliation, too. It began well before Xi’s Ministry of State Security kidnapped and imprisoned the diplomat-on-leave Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor in December, 2018, to punish Canada for having detained one of the Chinese Communist Party’s elite untouchables on a U.S. extradition request.

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While the Michaels were being held incommunicado in Chinese prison cells, the Huawei Technologies Company chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was in the media spotlight, enjoying a lavish lifestyle in one of her Vancouver mansions while her case proceeded through the courts. It’s only now, after all this time, that Meng is availing herself of a kind of plea bargain with the U.S. Justice Department — an option that has been available to her all along.

No matter how far the “relationship” drags Canada away from its traditional allies and Five Eyes intelligence partners, Ottawa’s singular focus has been on avoiding hard questions, keeping quiet and hoping nobody notices. While Beijing’s ratings in Canadian public opinion polls have continued to plummet year after year, the Trudeau government’s main worry hasn’t been about the outrages against international norms that were causing Canadians to take such a dim view of the Xi regime. Its main worry was that Beijing’s behaviour was harming the “relationship.”

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It’s confounding, but it’s got nothing to do with avoiding any indiscretion that could complicate the delicate negotiations surrounding the release of the Canadians that Beijing has been holding hostage. A lot of it has to do with the influences of the Liberal party’s old guard and its close and lucrative ties to corporate interests that are deeply invested in trade relations with China.

But it’s mainly about a whole-of-government organizing principle that Trudeau decided to stake his reputation on a decade ago, a big idea about the Canadian economy, foreign policy and global trade. After everything that has happened since then that has proved the idea’s catastrophic folly, Trudeau has never taken pains to reverse its course.

It was a full year before the two Michaels were picked up in China that Trudeau was dismissed from Beijing like an amorous suitor with rather too high an opinion of his prospects. Trudeau and his entourage arrived in China in December 2017, in a whirlwind of excitement about formalizing an engagement for an eventual exchange of vows in a free trade agreement. Trudeau had come fully expecting that the arrangement should reflect his “progressive” agenda. He was rebuffed, and Trudeau’s Chinese hosts sent him away.

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But the thing to notice in all this is how Canada ended up so dangerously exposed to Beijing’s strong-arm exertions in the first place. It goes back a decade, and to be fair, what Trudeau and his closest advisers launched back then was like one of those massive, deep-hulled container ships — not the kind of thing, to borrow a phrase, that you can just “turn on a dime.” That ship left port a long time ago. It’s been barrelling across the sea ever since.

The inflection point in Canada’s subjugation by Beijing came within a week of Nov. 14, 2012, the official start of the race to succeed Michael Ignatieff as Liberal leader. The year before, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had won his first Conservative majority government and the NDP’s Jack Layton was the official Opposition leader. With the Liberals left in third place in the House of Commons, Trudeau joined the race for the party leadership and invested his credibility in a big idea: China is the future.

While Harper’s vision was to establish Canada as a “global energy superpower,” which would shift the centre of Canada’s political gravity westward, Trudeau’s was just as straightforward: Beijing’s promise of a win-win relationship would unlock untold riches for Canada’s middle class. The power would not shift westward, but would rather entrench itself in the Liberal party’s bastions within the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle.

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Armed with growth forecasts and statistical projections helpfully provided by McKinsey & Company — the global consulting firm whose managing director, Dominic Barton, would go on to play a more public role later in the drama — Trudeau laid out his case in a widely published manifesto within days of declaring his candidacy.

“China is scanning the world for acquisitions like a shopper in a grocery store,” Trudeau wrote. “Just a decade ago, China’s outward foreign direct investment was negligible; today it approaches $100 billion. Canada has perhaps more potential to capitalize on this context than any other country. From minerals to energy, from education expertise to construction, we have a lot of what China needs.”

 Justin Trudeau announces his candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, in Montreal in 2012. © Peter McCabe/THE GAZETTE Justin Trudeau announces his candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, in Montreal in 2012.

This was supposed to distinguish Trudeau in the field of Liberal leadership candidates. He was determined to be seen as something more than just an unserious and cossetted high-society grandee, and his big China idea was the way to do it.

The idea buttressed the sanctity around the legacy of his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who had been so beguiled by Mao Zedong that he went on to play a key role in the normalization of the People’s Republic of China in the international community.

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Trudeau the elder was remembered fondly and appreciatively in the salons of China’s Communist party elites, so if anyone was going to animate the symbiosis of the Canadian and Chinese economies and tap into all those markets and all that money, it would have to be Justin Trudeau. Explaining himself on CTV’s “Question Period” two weeks after his manifesto made the rounds, Trudeau said he trusted his own instincts, adding, “Obviously, my family has historical ties with China.”

It helped, too, that the idea was already bred in the bone in his father’s circle — the old Liberal-dominated network of trade lobbyists and corporate deal-makers with ties to the Desmarais family’s Power Corporation. Jean Chrétien, the Liberal prime minister who led several “Team Canada” missions to China and played a critical role in rehabilitating the regime in the boardrooms of the world after its slaughter of students and pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square in 1989, had been busily plying the China trade ever since his resignation following the 2003 sponsorship scandal. Chrétien’s son-in-law, Andre Desmarais, is honorary chairman of the Canada-China Business Council (CCBC).

Even before he settled in at the Prime Minister’s Office after winning the Liberals a majority government in October 2015, Trudeau appointed Peter Harder, head of the CCBC, to lead his transition team. Trudeau later saw to it that Harder was given the Liberals’ top seat in the Senate.

Former immigration minister John McCallum raised eyebrows by taking $73,000 in free trips to China before his appointment as ambassador to China. When McCallum ended up having to be relieved of his duties for issuing embarrassing declarations endorsing Meng’s legal complaints about her detention in Canada, he was replaced by McKinsey’s Dominic Barton, who had been so helpful in developing Trudeau’s China proposals in 2012.

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But even before he was appointed Canada’s ambassador to China, Barton was already occupying a top spot in the Liberal brain trust as chair of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s blue-chip advisory council on economic growth. Barton had spent years in China, where McKinsey had advised a company involved in the construction of illegal islands in the South China Sea, and drew unwanted attention to itself by holding a corporate retreat in Xinjiang, within walking distance of a Uyghur concentration camp.

Barton’s place in Morneau’s council was so central that the council itself was almost totally a McKinsey show. The council didn’t even have its own budget . McKinsey handled its administration, supplied consultants and provided all the research and analysis for free. Meanwhile, with Stéphane Dion as Trudeau’s foreign minister, the China enthusiasts began lobbying Global Affairs Canada, where senior officials were put to work making their dreams come true.

Among their big ideas: Canada’s senior defence staff should be on a first-name basis with the generals in the People’s Liberation Army. The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that was established as a bulwark against China’s growing influence in the Asia Pacific region? Beijing should be invited to join.

The Asia Infrastructure Development Bank that Beijing had assembled to build out its Belt and Road Initiative to displace the American-led rules-based world order? Canada should invest in it. And Canada did, to the tune of a pledge totalling nearly $1 billion. Sure, Canadians were jittery about all this, but what that meant was that Ottawa should devise methods so as to be “leading public opinion” on the virtues of the new Canada-China relationship.

But back to that inflection point, the moment the compass heading on that lumbering bulk carrier of the Canadian state was set in the direction of China. A confluence of events around that time were harbingers of the turmoil to come.

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Opinion was sharply divided in Ottawa about what to make of China’s profligate offshore spending. On one side, the standpoint was well illustrated by a remark uttered by former Liberal cabinet minister Martin Cauchon, later a member of the board of the Canada China Business Council, in November 2011: “There is a saying that if you can’t beat them, join them.”

a group of people standing in a room:  A screen shows Canadian Ambassador Dominic Barton delivering a statement from Dandong, via video link at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, on Aug. 11, after Canadian businessman Michael Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison. © JADE GAO/AFP A screen shows Canadian Ambassador Dominic Barton delivering a statement from Dandong, via video link at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, on Aug. 11, after Canadian businessman Michael Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

That was how Cauchon welcomed the news that Huawei, Xi Jinping’s “national champion” telecommunications behemoth — with all its service to Xi’s globe-encircling power moves and its links to China’s military and intelligence services and its association with surveillance-state infrastructure put in place by tinpot Beijing-friendly authoritarian regimes — was ramping up its operations in and around Ottawa, aided by a $6.5-million Ontario government grant.

There is another saying: “We’re sitting ducks.”

That’s how Anthony Campbell, the former head of the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat of the Privy Council Office, described Canada’s position in 2012. What Campbell meant was that Beijing and its state-owned enterprises were sloshing so much money around, and the federal government was so inattentive to the implications, that nobody at the centre of power in Canada was capable of articulating what the words “national security” even meant anymore.

To complicate the Harper government’s grand plan to transform Canada into a global energy superpower, Beijing’s state-owned energy corporations were suddenly buying up huge swathes of the Alberta oilpatch. And these weren’t bit players. Petro-China was bigger than ExxonMobil. Sinopec calculated its annual revenues to an amount that exceeded Canada’s haul in federal tax revenue.

When the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) proposed to lavish $15.1 billion on the shareholders of Calgary’s Nexen Inc., to take over the company and its holdings in their entirety, what was in the pipe was the largest acquisition, the biggest overseas outlay of cash, in the history of the People’s Republic of China.

The Conservative cabinet was divided. Harper had begun his time in the Prime Minister’s Office as a “China hawk,” to use the fashionably pejorative expression. But he soon learned that there was nothing to be gained from it. The business press hounded him whenever he opened his mouth about Tibet, or the Uyghurs, or the human rights of China’s 1.4 billion people.

Running for the top Liberal job, Trudeau declared out of the blue that he supported CNOOC’s bid. The CNOOC-Nexen deal would be good for Canada, Trudeau explained, because Chinese investment would create “middle-class Canadian jobs.”

It was also around that time, during U.S. President Barack Obama’s tenure in office, that the U.S. Justice Department started investigating Huawei Technologies Company, a Chinese firm that Canada had generously favoured, for fraud and sanctions-evasion in Iran. The Americans warned Ottawa: You’ll want to be careful of your blossoming relationship with Huawei. No good will come of it.

But Ottawa wasn’t careful. And no good came of it.

The only problem Trudeau saw was that Canadians had not been adequately instructed in the correctness of his standpoint on China. “Where is the leadership to explain to Canadians why this relationship is so important, to engage Canadians in the conversation, to make us aware of the opportunities?” he wrote.

Trudeau later attempted to meet what he saw as a need to make Canadians “aware of the opportunities” with a special project in aid of Beijing’s public-relations difficulties among ordinary Canadians. The Public Policy Forum brought together an array of Trudeau’s China enthusiasts in government, business and academia in what was to be a two-year exercise to make Canadians feel good about Trudeau’s big idea.

It didn’t work. China’s standing continued to drop in the opinion polls, and it didn’t help that Ottawa allowed a shadowy Chinese corporation to spend $1 billion acquiring a network of nursing homes when the head of that same corporation was arrested by Chinese authorities on fraud charges. It didn’t help, either, when Ottawa unaccountably approved a Chinese acquisition of Norsat International, a firm with contracts to supply American military satellites. It also didn’t help that Trudeau’s way of doing business with China was to invite 61 Liberal donors to a state dinner with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Stephen Harper wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a flag:  Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to the media, after approving the acquisition of Nexen Inc. by CNOOC, in 2012. © ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to the media, after approving the acquisition of Nexen Inc. by CNOOC, in 2012.

Those other grubby cash-for-access soirees with Chinese billionaires didn’t help, either, especially after a pair of billionaires were found to have made lavish donations to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, which spent some of their dubious money on a statue of the former prime minister at McGill University in Montreal.

That’s the backdrop to the way Trudeau launched Canada into Beijing’s cold embrace. Don’t be afraid, Trudeau assured us. Beijing just does things a little differently is all. We should leave our antiquated 20th-century assumptions behind us. “China, for one, sets its own rules and will continue to do so because it can,” Trudeau wrote in 2012. “China has a game plan. There is nothing inherently sinister about that.”

Harper ended up letting the CNOOC-Nexen deal go ahead, but made it clear that, going forward, only in an “exceptional circumstance” would a Chinese state-owned enterprise be permitted to bite off such a huge chunk of a vital Canadian industry. That last bit did not please Beijing at all. But after Trudeau was elected, Canada settled into a new groove, and Beijing was pleased.

Ever since then, the growing public alarm over repeated warnings from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) about Beijing’s myriad threats to Canadian sovereignty and national security have only served to make Trudeau less verbose about the big ideas he has about China. There’s no indication that his ideas have changed at all.

Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne kept promising some sort of new China policy, but it never came. Neither was there evidence of any new policy in Trudeau’s platform for the election campaign that just concluded — an election marred by evidence that China and its Canadian proxies engaged in a brutal disinformation campaign, targeting candidates who have shown some spine in confronting Beijing’s human rights abusers. This is exactly what CSIS and the CSE warned would happen.

Canada remains alone among the Five Eyes security partners (Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom) in its silence about whether Huawei should be permitted to contribute to Canada’s 5G network. Ottawa has remained almost completely silent about a clear pattern of harassment and intimidation waged by Beijing’s proxies in Canada against human rights activists across the country — a pattern confirmed in public reports issued by CSIS.

Even after Beijing began devouring Hong Kong in direct violation of the Sino-British handover agreement that was supposed to guarantee the island’s democratic autonomy after 1997, and even after incontrovertible evidence emerged about Xi’s genocidal persecution of the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, the Trudeau government has given no indication that it has changed course on China. Even the arbitrary detentions of Michael Kovring and Michael Spavor are treated as unfortunate events, bumps along the road to deeper engagement with Xi’s police state.

As Barton put it to the House of Commons special committee on Canada-China relations in February 2020, sure there are red lines, but “friends disagree with each other; friends get mad at each other, so we need to define where those are and make sure people understand them. We need to manage both these opportunities and challenges in concert.… We can engage and grow, and we can also be tough at the same time.”

Rob Oliphant, in his role as parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, told the same committee in March that the kidnapping of Kovrig and Spavor can’t stop the world from turning. After all, “the well-being of specific Canadians in detention in China needs to be considered alongside the well-being of Canadian businesses doing important agricultural business and other business in Canada, and also the people-to-people relationships that we enjoy between Canada and China.”

The Trudeau government’s commitment to deeper relationships with China is shared by fewer and fewer Canadians: a Nanos poll carried out in August showed that two-thirds of Canadians want Ottawa to take a harder line with China. An Angus Reid poll released in March showed that only one in 10 Canadians agrees that Canada should pursue closer trade ties with China.

Last year, the all-party National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians reported that Canada’s intelligence agencies had concluded that Canada has become an “attractive and permissive target” for Beijing-directed influence operations that threaten Canada’s foundational institutions, “including our system of democracy itself.”

None of this mattered. The Trudeau government has stubbornly resisted efforts by the House of Commons to discern how Chinese researchers who collaborated with People’s Liberation Army scientists from the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party managed to obtain high-level security clearances to undertake research at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. A cloud of suspicion was left hanging over all that when the House of Commons declared the Liberal government in contempt of Parliament for withholding unredacted documents about the firing of two scientists at the lab.

And it’s still not clear why the Trudeau government entered into a vaccine-development agreement with China’s CanSino Biologics, or why it was still a secret, weeks afterwards, that Beijing had reneged on the deal and blocked shipments to Canada.

There are a lot of things that remain unclear about the Trudeau government’s approach to China, except that the “relationship,” as it is called, requires submitting to abuse, hostage diplomacy, duplicity and humiliation at the feet of Xi Jinping.

National Post

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NP View: Canada is soft on China and the U.S. knows it .
Canada was never a global superpower and, frankly, didn’t need to be. Where other nations had military might and economic weight to throw around, we had international goodwill, a reputation for doing the right thing, and an enviable relationship with the United States. Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that relationship has now been squandered at the cost of our international credibility. That unique friendship, shaped by shared values, history, geography and deep economic ties had elevated us beyond our means on the international stage and allowed us to exert influence and enjoy privileges we never would’ve had on our own.

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