A Liberal China Policy for Canada’s Majority Conservative Administration ?
by Jacob Kovalio
The first official visit of John Baird, the Foreign Minister of Canada’s new Conservative majority administration , in July 2011, was to the People’s Republic of China. Given Beijing’s growing economic and political clout , sending Mr. Baird to Beijing was a good pragmatic and utilitarian move.
In media interviews on the eve of the Baird mission, academics Paul Evans and Wenran Jiang – China supporters and ideological critics of the Conservative administration’s Beijing policy –praised the Baird visit though mainly as evidence of Prime Minister Harper supposedly emulating his Liberal predecessor ,Paul Martin. The “compliment ” is invalid for two main reasons.
First, Mr. Martin’s approach to China was deeply rooted in the doctrinaire [and ultimately self-defeating] anti-Americanism of Pierre Trudeau as well as that of Maurice Strong – the shady globetrotting wheeler-dealer and Martin mentor, who has been singing the Chinese regime ’s praises ,from Beijing , for about a decade.
Second, and much more importantly, despite baseless accusations of its Liberal, Leftist and other critics in Canada, the overall substance of the Harper administration’s approach to China during its minority years took the form of a fine balance between dignified commitment to democratic values and expanding economic ties, which it should continue as a majority government.
However , a new and surprising tone vis-à-vis China , became evident in the warm congratulatory message the freshly re-elected Conservative Party of Canada sent to the [never elected though perpetually ruling] Communist Party of China on its 90th anniversary on July 1st, 2011. While it is up to the Chinese people [over time] to decide who their rulers are, a formal and correct rather than an effusive, message from a genuine democratic party to an utterly totalitarian one , should have sufficed.
The effusive tone became even more obvious in Mr. Baird’s statements during his China visit .While “strategic partner” – a term invented by the Chinese , as a generically use-and-throw positive expression , easily dispensed with when a country does not see things China’s way [ Japan and India have experienced this Chinese tactic in the past decade] - may be an acceptable designation for our hoped for equal relationship with China, John Baird’s reference to Beijing as an “ally” of Ottawa sounds as valid as Washington calling Islamabad [Beijing’s puppet ] an “ally.”
Engaging China – always, in all fields and at all levels - is the policy line Canadian governments should pursue. However, a majority Conservative government cannot ignore the fact that Beijing of the 21st century is an entity whose socio-political values and foreign policy principles are fundamentally opposed to those of all Canadians who believe in genuine democracy , regardless of party affiliation.
If, in Mr. Baird’ s words, the People’s Republic [in name only ] of China is Canada’s “ally” what is Japan? If the answer to the question is “also an ally” then the term has no real meaning whatsoever. Truth from facts – historical facts in particular- is a maxim [used but never actually respected, as expected] by both Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping , which our governments and Canadians in general , should take to heart .
Post-Mao China is a Confucommunist [ a term I have coined combining Confucianism - the millenary anti-egalitarian , totalitarian socio-political value system with a supremacist foreign policy, seeing China as the only civilization in the world ,surrounded by barbarians- plus Soviet-style Communism ] entity . Such a system considers democracy utter anathema , religion a tool of the state , and prestige and the appearance of stability paramount to its political survival. That is why it jails democracy activists like Ai Weiwei, harshly persecutes Tibetans, Christians and Falun Gong practitioners and even prevents its subjects from watching the so-called “democratic Arab spring.” The brilliant Deng Xiaoping, China’s most important modern leader coined the oxymoronic “socialist market economy” for the state-sponsored mercantilist capitalist system [temporarily] successful in reinforcing [rather than undermining as elsewhere ,in South Korea for instance] a ruthlessly totalitarian political system.
Historically, like other major entities in the world , China came to be a large country through imperialist expansion. Chinese imperialism/colonialism is land-based. That is how China came to be a Central Asian [Xinjiang ] and South Asian [ Tibet] entity. In the north it clashed with Russia and a [temporary?] territorial compromise was reached in the first decade of the 21st century. Now , although threatened by no one, Beijing is aggressively increasing its military budgets and pursuing land as well as maritime expansion by bullying India, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. This reality behind the clever slogan of “peaceful rise” [heping jüechi] has made China responsible for a rapidly accelerating tension as well as an arms race in Asia Pacific.
Imperial China – until 1842- as an undeveloped [and not the economic “superpower” ignorant propagandists like André Gunder Frank and Henry Kissinger would have us believe ] entity, interacted with its even less developed immediate neighbors [except Japan] through a supremacist tributary system which then, as today, used trade as a political tool. Korea was the best exemplar of the system at work: five times a year it offered formal tribute to Beijing in a demeaning kowtowing ceremony; in exchange, during that time, Koreans were allowed to trade in the “Celestial Empire.”
For Chinese and some Canadian nationalists , Leftists, Islamists and mercenaries like Maurice Strong and misguided observers , the democratic West is in “inexorable decline,” and our future is as members of a China-centered, global tributary system . This is the exact theme of a door-stopper titled “When China Rules the World” by Leftist London Guardian scribbler Martin Jacques. However, those free from anti-democratic ideological biases know that historically, genuine democracies have a built-in capacity to reform socio-economically while remaining politically democratic. As for China, its evident economic success in the last three decades will not solve the fundamental incompatibility between state-dominated thus mercantilist-capitalism and political totalitarianism. Therefore, today as in the past, China’s most vital political problem is domestic: the legitimacy of its rulers.
The re-elected Harper administration and its advisors seem to overlook the fact that China, like all other states, respects those who not only respect it – which we have always done, in stark contrast to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s inexcusable public chastisement of visiting Prime Minster Harper in Beijing in 2009 or the disgraceful behavior of former Chinese ambassador Lu Shumin while serving in Ottawa- but themselves as well. The majority Conservative administration’s sudden and seemingly assiduous serenading of [Confucommunist] China in 2011 is anything but dignified for an “energy and natural resources superpower” let alone a major democracy which can afford to not consider “the almighty dollar “ as the leading principle guiding its relations with one of the world’s leading challengers to liberal democracy , freedom of speech , human rights and international stability.