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 the Chinese.
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