Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

We are all Australians now.

On Wednesday, the House of Commons passed a motion calling on the government to confront the growing threat to Canada’s “national interest and values” posed by Xi Jinping’s Communist regime in China. It gave Ottawa 30 days to come up with a plan to combat China’s surveillance and intimidation of Chinese Canadians in Canada, and to make a decision on whether to allow Huawei, the Chinese technology giant, to supply equipment to Canada’s 5G wireless networks.

All but five Liberal MPs voted against the motion.

Story continues below advertisement

At about the same time, in Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman was denouncing Australia for its many offences against Chinese amour-propre. These were helpfully compiled into a list by the Chinese embassy in Canberra, which somehow found its way into media hands.

The inventory of Australia’s sins includes: banning Huawei’s participation in its 5G network, a decision it took in 2018; passing legislation targeting foreign (read: Chinese) influence operations, including alleged infiltration of business and academic associations and bribery of politicians; calling for an international inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak; “incessant wanton interference in China’s Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan affairs,” i.e. public denunciations of China for its human-rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and for its threats against Taiwan; blocking a number (“more than 10”) of Chinese investments on national-security grounds; criticizing China’s attempts to expand its territory into the South China Sea as “unlawful”; etc., etc. All of which combined to produce that most grievous of crimes in Beijing’s eyes: “poisoning the atmosphere of bilateral relations.”

It should give us no pride to note that almost none of the same charges could be laid against the government of Canada. It has been dithering over the Huawei question for more than two years, with no sign a decision is in the offing. Chinese agents have been permitted to carry out their activities in Canada unmolested by any apparent federal policy: A report by Amnesty International described Ottawa’s approach as “piecemeal and largely ineffective,” while witnesses before the Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations have described police and counterintelligence operations in similarly scathing terms.

Only one significant Chinese takeover of a Canadian business, involving the construction company Aecon Group, has been rejected since the Liberals took office; the Liberals also retracted the Harper government’s decision to nix O-Net Communications’ purchase of Montreal-based ITF Technologies. The government’s statements on Hong Kong, Taiwan and China’s mass internment of its Muslim Uyghur minority have mostly ranged from late to timid to non-existent. (UN Ambassador Bob Rae’s recent description of the treatment of the Uyghurs as “genocide” was a welcome exception.)

Canada, it is true, has come under severe pressure by the Chinese government to toe the line, notably in the matter of the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou pending hearings on her extradition to the United States. Two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, remain prisoners of the regime, nearly two years after their abduction. Restrictions have been placed on Canadian exports of beef and canola.

But Australia has been subject to all this and more. Its citizens, too, including writer Yang Hengjun and television anchor Cheng Lei, have been victims of Chinese “hostage diplomacy.” A long list of its exports – from coal to timber, from lobsters to wine, from barley to beef – have either been hit with tariffs or effectively banned from the Chinese market.

Yet the government of Australia has carried on, defiant. Prime Minister Scott Morrison greeted the latest fusillade from Beijing with a jaunty vow that Australia would “always be ourselves,” setting its own laws “according to our national interests – not at the behest of any other nation.”

Story continues below advertisement

Indeed, Australia has been (and I quote from the Chinese government’s bill of indictment) “spearheading the crusade against China” in the United Nations and other international forums. This, despite the fact that Australia has just two-thirds Canada’s population, and is far more dependent on Chinese trade: China accounts for a third of Australia’s exports, versus less than 4 per cent of Canada’s. Indeed, it has been party to a free-trade agreement with China since 2015.

Mere timidity is, if anything, the optimistic explanation for the Trudeau government’s posture toward China. Senior officials at Global Affairs are reportedly still advising the government that the country can be brought to see reason, while Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, continues to say things like “we need to do more in China.” Geopolitical theories of China as the rising global hegemon die hard, as does Liberal – and Trudeauvian – naivete about Communist dictatorships, especially as these coincide with the business interests of retired Liberal grandees.

But Australia’s counterexample, as courageous as it is principled, ought to shame us into our senses. Beijing has clearly signalled that worse is to come for the Lucky Country, which unlike Canada cannot count on the Americans to ride automatically to its defence; not for nothing did Australia and Japan just conclude a landmark defence co-operation agreement. But whatever price Australia is made to pay is also likely in store for us. As the former diplomat and foreign-policy analyst Charles Burton has put it: “Australia’s relations with China today are almost certainly Canada’s tomorrow.”

What, then, will Canada do? Will we stand shoulder to shoulder with Australia? Or will we abandon it, as we did Hong Kong, in the hopes of escaping Beijing’s wrath? Will we form a united front with Australia and other democracies – which may yet include the U.S., assuming its Xi-fancying outgoing President can be ejected from the White House – in opposition to what Canadian intelligence has identified as China’s “strategic threat”? Or will we continue to reward its strategy of playing the countries of the West off one another, each hoping the other will be exposed as the weakest link?

Solidarity with our Australian cousins is the bare minimum that should be expected. If we were serious, we might even try emulating them.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Story continues below advertisement

Vina Nadjibulla, the wife of Michael Kovrig, sends a direct message to Chinese President Xi, saying Mr. Kovrig is innocent and China is showing the world that nobody is safe there by keeping him detained. The Globe and Mail

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies