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The China Challenge

Huhua Cao
Vivienne Poy

Evolution of Canada-China relations

Chapter 3. The Canadian Policy Context of Canada’s China Policy since 1970

Charles Burton

Texte intégral

1Commentary on relations between Canada and China relations tends to lament the shortcomings of Canada’s response to the challenge of China’s dramatic rise to power over the past thirty years. The perception is that Canada is not sufficiently politically and economically committed to China for Canada fully to realize Canadian interests in China. The focus of this analysis has been on the very dynamic changes in China since China embarked on policies of “opening and reform” in 1978. The argument is that China is transforming dramatically year by year through a staged process of sloughing off the legacy of Marxist ideology and Leninist organization that informed the People’s Republic of China from 1949 until the inauguration of the new paradigm of “opening and reform” in late 1978. This line of argument maintains that Canada is not keeping up with innovative policy and greater commitment of government resources to engage China in ways that adequately meet the imperatives of China’s ongoing transformation and expansion.

2However, this kind of analysis is based on a narrative that is “China-led,” in the sense that China is seen as highly active in the dynamic, while Canada is depicted as a largely static and passive entity. It tends to downplay the dramatic transformation of the international context as a whole and Canada’s commensurate reinterpretation of its own position and role in international relations since 1970. It also does not take into account core aspects of China’s political, economic and social system that are fundamental to the regime, and therefore are not amenable to reform so long as the current regime remains in place.

The Trudeau Era: Rapprochement with China, 1968–1984

3The establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and China in 1970 was a highly controversial political decision for Canada in the context of the times. Due the xenophobic imperatives of the “anti-imperialist,” “anti-colonialist” Marxist discourse that legitimated the assumption of state power by the new Communist regime after the establishment of the new People’s Republic of China in 1949, interaction between Canada and China in all aspects had been very much reduced. Soon after the new Communist government came to power it had ordered nearly all the resident Canadian business people and missionaries, including doctors and teachers, many of whom had been resident in China for many years, to leave the country and resettle elsewhere. Those expelled included the children of Canadians who had been born in China. Only a very small handful of Canadian Communist fellow travellers were allowed to stay on in the “New China.”

4China’s entry into the Korean War engaged Canada and the People’s Republic in direct hostilities that, for the first time in our countries’ histories, saw Canadians and Chinese confronting each other on the battlefield. In the years that followed there was a common perception in the West, exacerbated by US McCarthyist fear-mongering, that the Russian-dominated Soviet Union and “Red China” secretly shared a foreign policy agenda to “liberate” all the nations of the world through “revolutions” informed by Marxist-Leninist ideology. The fear was that Communist subversion might ultimately transform Canada into a totalitarian dictatorship answerable to the Soviet Union. As the West and the Soviet Bloc vied for the allegiance of the post-colonial Third World, a new fear of a “domino effect,” in which one Asian nation after another succumbed to Communism, seized the imagination of US policy-makers. Many interpreted this in terms of the “Soviet alliance” gradually moving toward achieving a critical balance of power in the Cold War. The future of Canada as a Christian nation, loyal to the British Crown and based on principles of liberal democracy and private enterprise, was perceived as being under severe threat.

5The Chinese Nationalist regime in exile in Taiwan, fighting to regain its control of the Chinese mainland, was seen as a beacon of hope for a reversal of this ominous trend. The Nationalist regime, despite being in effective political control only of Taiwan and a few other islands off the southern Fujian coast, was diplomatically recognized by Canada as the sole legitimate government of the whole of China. On that basis, the Nationalist regime occupied China’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Reports of economic chaos, famine and severe political repression in China through the 1950s and 1960s enhanced the urgency that many Canadians felt about continuing to support the remnant Nationalist regime’s thin aspirations to “gloriously retake the mainland” from the “Communist bandits,” despite the fact that almost the entire population of China lived securely within the People’s Republic. The authority of the Chinese Communist Party was well consolidated by the early 1950s, after a series of political campaigns had effectively decimated any political opposition. Canada’s lack of any formal institutional relations with the most populous nation on Earth was a highly irregular state of affairs. The diplomatic conundrum was that neither the Republic of China based in Taiwan nor the People’s Republic would abide any cross-recognition of “two Chinas.”

6In 1970, after years of negotiations, the governments of Canada and the People’s Republic managed to finesse this point, and thereby remove a significant barrier to formal diplomatic relations and the exchange of embassies. The “Canadian formula” with regard to the mainland regime’s claims over Taiwan was that the Canada “takes note of” them. This formed the basis for Canada’s recognition of the People’s Republic in October 1970 and was subsequently adopted by many other nations that recognized the People’s Republic in the years following (see Canada, Foreign Affairs et al. 2010). Nevertheless, there was much political resistance in Canada to the requirement, negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing, that the diplomats of the Republic of China be made to close its Embassy and return to Taiwan before diplomatic relations between Canada and the People’s Republic could finally be established (Evans and Frolic 1995, pp. 241–52).

7This is not to say that Canada had not had any contact with mainland China at all between 1949 and 1970. In fact, Canada began a very significant trade with China in the form of wheat sales, starting in 1958. At that time China was suffering from a very severe food shortage due to the disastrous policies of the “Great Leap Forward” campaign. In 1961, an agreement was signed to ship CA$ 422 million worth of wheat to China over two and a half years (see Canada, Foreign Affairs et al. 2010). This initiative was undertaken at the behest of Alvin Hamilton, the Minister of Agriculture in the Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. These sales to China were much opposed at the time by supporters of Canada’s role in the Commonwealth, who felt that supplying China with so much wheat would have the effect of aiding China in its very serious conflict with India, one of Canada’s Commonwealth partners. Moreover, the United States had a very strict embargo on trade with the People’s Republic at this time.

8This major Canadian trade initiative with China amounted to an audacious challenge to the China policy of the United States. Alvin Hamilton’s initiative was seen as a signal that Canada’s foreign policy would be made in Canada and would promote Canadian values in international affairs. Canada was anxious to make it clear to the United States, to the world and to Canadians themselves that Canada would not simply follow in lockstep with the foreign policy doctrine of the United States. As Canada became much less a functionary of Britain in the post-war period, questions of Canadian identity had assumed new urgency. The cultural imperative for Canada to distance itself from the United States was deeply felt by much of the Canadian population in those years. (Today the main public function room in the Canadian Embassy in Beijing is named the Alvin Hamilton Room in honour of his contribution to the development of relations between Canada and China.)

9The Diefenbaker government’s “wheat diplomacy” with China set the stage for Canada’s initiatives in the 1960s and 1970s, aimed at growing closer diplomatically to the People’s Republic. It is important to note that Canada’s approaches to China under Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and then under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, took place at the height of the Vietnam War. At that time China was supporting the regime of Ho Chi Minh with arms and logistics, so that, as Canada was negotiating formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic, Chinese-supplied guns, bombs, and grenades were killing the young drafted soldiers sent to Vietnam by Canada’s neighbour and close ally the United States. It was also at exactly this time that China was engaged in the highly anti-American ideological campaign that formed part of its “Cultural Revolution.” Canada’s approaches to the Chinese regime to establish formal diplomatic relations allowed Canada’s Liberal government to continue to “play the China card,” and thus very explicitly and forcefully assert its foreign policy as being independent of that of the United States. From the Canadian point of view, this can be paired with Trudeau’s outreach at the same time to Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba, another arch-enemy of the United States.

10Reflecting on the motives for Canada’s decision to formally recognize the People’s Republic in October 1970, it now seems clear that engagement of China through formal diplomatic relations would reduce China’s diplomatic isolation, and lead to China becoming a more active and responsible member of the community of nations (see Evans 2009). Moreover, one might today look to Trudeau’s watchword of “reason over passion” as an explicatory factor. The Nationalist government in Taipei controlled territory occupied by just one sixtieth of the Chinese population, so it made rational sense to change to having diplomatic relations with the government in Beijing, which was in control of the territory occupied by the other fifty-nine sixtieths of the Chinese population.

11By the late 1960s as the People’s Republic celebrated twenty years of stable, albeit ruthless, Communist rule, many Canadians no longer perceived the regime in Taiwan as a beacon of hope for the “free world,” but rather reinterpreted it as one of many morally bankrupt and corrupt right-wing military regimes throughout the world supported by the military and economic might of the United States. These ranged from the “banana republics” in Central and South American to the regimes of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaïre and of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. Mao Zedong’s regime was apparently identified with the interests of workers and peasants, and committed to comprehensive social justice, including egalitarian distribution of China’s national wealth. It was seen by many in Canada as offering an exemplary developmental model for Third World development.

12Arguably of greater significance, these diplomatic initiatives can be seen as responding to the strain of thought in Canada at the time that the global spread of US technology and capital would have a profound impact in transforming domestic economic and political institutions, and might even destroy their soul, culture, spirit and identity. This idea was articulated at length by the distinguished Canadian “Red Tory” philosopher George Grant (see Grant 1965), and had strong currency among leftist Canadian nationalists, whose political stance was strongly anti-American. These leftist Canadian nationalists were entranced by the idea of Mao’s China forging a Chinese response to the crisis of modernity on Chinese terms, being beholden neither to the Soviet Union nor to the United States, and thus allowing the Chinese people to be, as these Canadians understood it at least, more truly human. It goes without saying that there was much misinformation and naïveté about the true nature of the Chinese “Cultural Revolution” in Canada in those years.

13Trudeau’s visit to China in 1973 was important symbolically, in that Trudeau met at length with Premier Zhou Enlai and more briefly with Chairman Mao Zedong, and travelled in China accompanied by Zhou and the recently rehabilitated Deng Xiaoping. However, the visit had few substantive results, beyond a consular agreement that led to some Chinese citizens being permitted to reunite with family in Canada, and some sports and public health exchanges.

14Overall, in these first ten years of relations Canada was not able to do much to realize its interests in China. Levels of trade, except for wheat, remained very low. Bilateral and multilateral relations in other areas were also quite constrained by China’s xenophobic ultra-ideological policies of those years. Movement of people back and forth between Canada and China was also very limited. Canada’s entire immigration programme in China was handled by a single clerk on a part-time basis. Canadians resident in China in the 1970s amounted to a small number of diplomats, fewer than twenty Canadian exchange students, a handful of Canadians working as translators and teachers, and no business people at all. They could all be easily gathered around the Embassy swimming pool in Beijing on Canada Day.

15The level of activity between Canada and China was low, but relations were “friendly,” as many Canadians were strongly supportive of the policies of the Chinese Communist Party during these years. Canada–China Friendship Associations sprung up all over Canada, and the emphasis was on Canadians “learning from China.” This “friendship” was not a mutual interaction, in the sense that the base-line assumption of this friendship was that Chinese socialism was morally superior to Canadian capitalism.

16The Chinese Communist Party’s decision in December 1978 to repudiate the policies of the Cultural Revolution as “ten years of disaster,” and in general to abandon the “movement politics” and “socialist economics” of China’s Marxist era after the death of Chairman Mao, was something of a shock to the pro-Maoist political pretensions of the Canadian “friends of China.” However, after China’s adoption of policies of “opening and reform,” the possibilities for deepening relations between Canada and China became much heightened, and there was much enthusiasm for this development on both sides. In 1979, Canada extended a $2 billion line of credit to encourage expansion of economic relations under the new conditions. A small development aid programme run out of the Canadian Embassy in Beijing began in 1981. A general agreement on development cooperation was signed in 1983, a major step forward as under Mao China had refused developmental assistance from Western nations. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was to help China to “build international linkages and learn from foreign expertise by supporting people-to-people contacts and education programs in Canada and China” (see Canadian International Development Agency 2005). Twinning agreements between Canadian and Chinese provinces and municipalities also grew apace, with high levels of activity back and forth (see Canada 2009).

17In January 1984 the Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang became the first Communist leader to address a joint session of the Canadian Parliament. The degree of effusiveness with which Zhao was greeted in Canada could not have been greater. In his introductory remarks, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau noted that “our bilateral relations have achieved such variety, depth and warmth,” and effused about his “most valued memory” of his visit to China in 1973, when he had discussed politics with Zhou Enlai “far into the night.” In thanking Premier Zhao, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lloyd Francis, referred to a parliamentary delegation that visited China in 1983, noting with evident enthusiasm that “all members of the delegation were absolutely delighted with their visit” (see Parliament of Canada 1984). It is puzzling today to try to comprehend how elected members of the legislature of a liberal democracy such as Canada could have been “delighted” by an authoritarian one-party state whose legislature meets for only two weeks a year in a committee of the whole to rubber-stamp approval for the often repressive rule of the Chinese Communist Party. It appears that Canadian concerns about pervasive reports of human rights violations in China were not raised while Zhao Ziyang was in Canada, despite Trudeau’s determined championing of the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms only two years before.

18The newly elected Progressive Conservative Government of Brian Mulroney was probably less pleased by Zhao’s meeting for ninety minutes in Zhongnanhai, the government compound in Beijing, with René Lévesque, the leader of Quebec’s separatist Parti Québécois, in October 1984, but this had no impact on relations overall.

Canada’s Response to China under Brian Mulroney after June 4, 1989

19The tone of relations between Canada and China was dramatically transformed after the Tiananmen incident in 1989 (see Brook 1992). Many Canadians had been elated by the “democratic spring” in Beijing that year, identifying it with recent “people power” movements along the lines of Solidarity in Poland or the People Power Revolution that had toppled the authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in 1986. The televised images of the military suppression of the movement in Beijing after June 4, 1989, brought home to Canadians the powerful reality of the Chinese Communist security apparatus, which was jarringly dissonant with the naïve warmth with which most Canadians had previously approached China’s authoritarian regime.

20On June 5, the Parliament of Canada held an emergency debate on the situation. Bullets had come through the window of the Canadian diplomatic staff quarters at Jianguomenwai. Canadian students in Beijing were encamped on the grounds of the Embassy compound awaiting evacuation. Joe Clark, Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a statement on behalf of the government: “I know that all members of the House of Commons and, indeed, all Canadians, share a deeply felt sense of horror and of outrage at the events that have unfolded over the last few days in China” (as quoted in Mulroney 2007, p. 665). In a statement to the press, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said: “We are appalled by the tragedy that has been visited upon young people in China seeking greater democratic freedoms within the system. It’s a calamity for them and it’s a calamity for the breath of fresh air that was a democratic impulse running throughout China” (quoted in Mulroney 2007, pp. 665–66). As Mulroney recalls in his autobiography (Mulroney 2007, p. 666):

I also spoke in Vancouver just a few days after the Chinese attack on the students. “I say to those young heroes: ‘Do not despair, victory must eventually be yours because liberty cannot be denied.’ Canada abhors the great tragedy that has been inflicted on those brave young leaders in Tiananmen Square. Indiscriminate shooting have [sic] snuffed out the precious human lives, but they can never snuff out the fundamental urge of human beings for freedom and democracy.” ...Joe [Clark] hauled in the Chinese Ambassador to Canada to register our disgust.

21Fearing continuing civil unrest, many Canadian firms closed their representative offices in Beijing after repatriating Canadian staff. The Canadian Ambassador, Earl Drake, was withdrawn to Ottawa for prolonged consultations. All Chinese nationals in Canada were eventually granted Minister’s Permits and allowed to remain in Canada permanently if they wished. Most of them did so, causing considerable complaint from the government of China, particularly in respect of those scholars who had come to Canada on Chinese government funding. Canada banned sales to China of weaponry and other goods deemed to have military applications, CIDA suspended negotiations with China’s Ministry of Commerce for development aid projects worth a total of about CA$ 60 million, and CA$ 11 million worth of ongoing programming was scrapped, since China would not send participants to Canada for training as they would likely not return to China. A moratorium on high-level contacts between the governments of Canada and China was also announced (see Gecelovsky and Keenleyside 1995). In 1990 the reduced Canadian Embassy in Beijing was directed by Ottawa that there should be “no celebratory activities” marking the twentieth anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations.

22In fact, this stated policy of shunning the Communist government of China was not strictly observed. In the months and years that followed, a series of cabinet ministers met with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing and took part in bilateral consultations at international meetings in other countries. There was a strong policy undercurrent that supported continued engagement of China as the most effective way to realize Canada’s aspirations for that nation (see Gecelovsky and Keenleyside 1995). In April 1992 a trade delegation led by Michael Wilson, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology and Minister for International Trade, marked the restoration of normal government-to-government relations between Canada and China. The Canadian policy of shunning China had effectively failed and had had no significant impact on the Chinese regime, which carried on the status quo ante. Canadian dreams of Chinese democracy had crashed on the shoals of Chinese Communist authoritarian reality.

Jean Chrétien’s “Team Canada”: Engagement with China, 1993–2003

23Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien subsequently led “Team Canada” trade missions to China in 1996, 1998 and 2001. The last was the largest trade mission in Canadian history to date. Chrétien was accompanied by close to 600 business participants, eight provincial premiers, three territorial leaders, the Minister for International Trade, Pierre Pettigrew, and the Secretary of State (Asia–Pacific), Rey Pagtakhan. On the economic front, the strategy was to send a critical mass of Canadian business people, buttressed by the highest level of political support, to induce Chinese state-owned enterprises and smaller businesses to consider contracting for Canadian products and services. As for Canada’s agenda of promoting liberal democracy and respect for human rights in China, Chrétien evidently shared the opinion of many in Canada’s business community that economic opening would eventually produce political democratization (see Evans 2009), and that directly raising Canadian concerns over human rights abuses in China could have a negative impact on Canada’s economic interests in China. Indeed, in 1994, after his meeting with the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, Chrétien made a high-profile public statement that he was skeptical of the efficacy of directly raising human rights concerns with the Chinese leadership: “I’m the Prime Minister of a country of twenty million people. He’s the President of a country with 1.2 billion. I’m not allowed to tell the Premier of Saskatchewan or Quebec what to do. Am I supposed to tell the President of China what to do?” He reiterated this policy stance, which must have been very well received by the Chinese Communist leadership, in 2008 (see Gee 2008).

24Chrétien visited China six times while he was in office and forged close personal ties with China’s Communist leaders (see Chrétien 2007, pp. 339– 43). His son-in-law, André Desmarais, is honorary Chairman of the Canada–China Business Council, President of the Power Corporation, which has extensive interests in China, and a director of the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC), a Chinese state-owned conglomerate. Some suggest that Chrétien’s stance on human rights in China, which he maintained after leaving office, has been “heavily freighted with personal and private interests” (see McParland 2008). In November 1998, when he was still Prime Minister, and leading one of his Team Canada missions, Chrétien did make a strong statement on human rights in a speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing, saying: “I would be less than frank if I did not say directly to you that many Canadians are disturbed when we hear of people being arrested or in prison for expressing political views different from the government” (Chrétien 2007, p. 343). Nevertheless, Chrétien’s policy on promotion of good governance, democratic development and human rights was managed in an ambiguous way that sent out mixed signals to the Chinese authorities on Canada’s commitment to this aspect of the bilateral relationship.

25Despite these very proactive initiatives undertaken in the Chrétien era, Canada’s trade and investment in the Chinese market have not been as strong as those of other nations. According to numbers given in the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, in 1997 only 0.93 percent of Canada’s total exports went to China, and this amounted to 1.41 percent of China’s total imports. However, Canada’s share of China’s imports dropped overall to 1.06 percent in 2003, even though this amounted to 1.61 percent of Canada’s total exports. Thus, while Canada’s absolute amount of exports to China increased, its share of China’s import market decreased significantly. Canada’s share of the Chinese import market bottomed out at 0.97 percent in 2006. After the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper assumed power, Canada’s share of Chinese imports modestly increased to 1.12 percent in 2008 and the total proportion of Canada’s exports that went to China reached a new high of 2.71 percent. Canada has a huge merchandise trade deficit of about four to one with China, and it has generally been widening over the past fifteen years. In sharp contrast to Canada, Australia has achieved a modest surplus in its trade with China: Australia’s exports to China grew by 45.4 percent in 2008, compared to growth of only 19.5 percent in China’s exports to Australia (see Australia 2010). Moreover, according to a report published in the Globe and Mail in 2009, there were 130,000 Chinese students studying in Australia, compared to 42,000 studying in Canada, even though Australia has ten million fewer people than Canada (see Wheeler 2009).

26The factors that have led to Canada’s relatively disappointing performance in the Chinese market have been articulated along three main lines of interpretation. First, the interpretation put forward by the Federal Government Policy Research Initiative is that the trade imbalance reflects the structural characteristics of the Canadian economy in relation to China’s within the global economy. This interpretation implies that there is no need for government to see this trade imbalance as a problem, since it is a phenomenon reflecting global market economic principles (see Ghosh and Wang 2006). Second, other observers attribute Canada’s weak performance to specifically Chinese factors, such as manipulation of currency exchange rates to keep Chinese exports cheap and imports expensive, hidden subsidies to Chinese state-owned enterprises and local government subsidies to local businesses, local government connivance in preventing Canadian businesses in China from repatriating profits through theft of intellectual property, unfair adjudication of disputes with local partners, and other non-tariff barriers, including secret non-market, politically based decisions to give business to firms from countries other than Canada because of the regime’s unhappiness with the government’s “unfriendly” political engagement with the Chinese central authorities. Third, still other observers argue that the problem lies in the “culture” of Canadian business, which lacks vision and drive, and is conditioned by “coddling” from government subsidies and incentive programmes. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, for example, has said that “many companies are small, ‘unworldly’ and risk-averse, with limited knowledge of the Chinese market” (see Canadian Chamber of Commerce 2006).

27This last explanation appears to be the most convincing overall, but another important factor that is difficult to square with any of these three interpretations is that there are proportionately five times as many people of Chinese ancestry in Canada as in the United States, so Canada should have a significant advantage in terms of language, cultural understanding and willingness to function in a Chinese environment.

Canada’s Engagement of China Today

28There is a high degree of consensus across all the Canadian federal parties that Canada’s priorities with regard to China are, first, to promote prosperity through trade and investment, and, second, to encourage high-quality Chinese immigrants to move to Canada. According to the most recent Census, conducted in 2006, of the 31.2 million residents of Canada 1.2 million identified themselves as Chinese. That amounts to about four percent of Canada’s total population. Chinese is now the third most widely spoken language in Canada, after English and French.

29Canada also wants to collaborate with China on matters of mutual concern that arise in a rapidly globalizing world, such as fair trade, environmental sustainability, limiting the spread of diseases, respect for human rights and fighting transnational crime. There is little room for partisan disagreement on any of this. Moreover, Canadians of all political stripes are concerned by reports of alleged human rights violations in China. Canada’s foreign policy stands for freedom of expression, the right to religious and political freedom and the right to private property free from expropriation through corrupt deals. Even a “sensitive” political initiative such as extending honorary Canadian citizenship to the Dalai Lama received unanimous support in the Canadian House of Commons. Internationally, China’s close relations with what Canada regards as unstable and repressive regimes in Burma, Sudan, North Korea, Zimbabwe and elsewhere are of concern to the government of Canada. Whoever forms the next government in Ottawa will likely continue to respect Canada’s fundamental interests in its relations with China. The main factor distinguishing the Liberal Party from the Conservative Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québecois is the question of human rights. Lloyd Axworthy, who was foreign minister in the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien, initiated a confidential bilateral dialogue on human rights in 1997. The Liberal Party continues to support this “quiet diplomacy” approach to human rights engagement with China (see Liberal Party 2008). In 2006, however, Canada suspended this dialogue because it was seen as ineffective in furthering human rights in China (see Burton 2006 and 2009). Canada is concerned that, for example, China shows few signs of moving toward ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998. However, Canada is currently in discussions with China on a new mechanism for human rights engagement on terms that would be acceptable to both governments.

30In general, Canada hopes to rethink and reinvigorate the way it engages China along many dimensions in the years ahead. For example, most of the younger Chinese diplomats in Canada have near-fluency in English or French, and many have graduate degrees from universities in Canada, the United States, Australia or Britain. Canada needs to send comparably qualified Canadians to China, preferably people who have done advanced study in China, but Canada is not yet doing to a sufficient extent, and is less effective in realizing its interests in China as a result. Canada also needs to overhaul the way Ottawa does its trade promotion in China. Canada needs a clear strategy for better access to the Chinese market, one that factors in the distinct characteristics of Chinese culture and Canada’s comparative advantage in that market.

31Finally, China requires comprehensive engagement. In the United States, Canada does not focus on the State Department alone. Canada’s Embassy in Washington engages Congress, the President and all the elements of political power. This multifaceted approach is informed by a policy decision, taken more than twenty-five years ago, recognizing that diversified engagement is necessary in order to enhance Canadian interests in Washington. Likewise, Ottawa must engage Chinese policy-makers in both the government and the Communist Party, all of whose decisions have implications for Canada’s interests. The focus of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be expanded to a more comprehensive engagement of the Chinese system. Canadian diplomats need to better recognize that many of the most influential players in the Chinese system are in Communist Party institutions.

32In December 2009 Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an official visit to China, following the eighteen ministerial visits made to China since Harper formed his government in 2006. One notable accomplishment on this visit was that Canada was finally able to negotiate “approved destination” status for Chinese tourism to Canada, something that had not been achieved despite considerable efforts by the two previous prime ministers, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. While he was in China Prime Minister Party Harper articulated a theme about which there is a large degree of consensus in Canada: “Now is the time to enhance and expand our relationship, to build upon our mutual successes, and to use the authority these successes have afforded us to set an example for others in the world” (see Canada 2010). The Prime Minister also observed before leaving China that “Canada has made a real significant impact here, [but] at the same time we all sense we are only scratching the surface” (see CBC News 2009).



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Associate Professor at Brock University specializing in Comparative Politics, Government and Politics of China, Canada-China Relations and Human Rights. He served as Counsellor at the Canadian Embassy to China between 1991-1993 and 1998-2000. Prior to coming to Brock, he worked at the Communications Security Establishment Canada of the Department of National Defence.
Dr. Burton received his PhD in 1987 from the University of Toronto after studies at Cambridge University (Oriental Studies) and Fudan University (History of Ancient Chinese Th ought Program, Department of Philosophy, class of ‘77). He held the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Post- Doctoral Scholar in Political Science at University of Alberta from 1986 to 1988.
His recently published works include: “Response to Jeremy Paltiel’s Article, ‘Canada and China: An Agenda for the Twenty-First Century: A Rejoinder to Charles Burton’” Canadian Foreign Policy, 15 (2), 2009, A Reassessment of Canada’s Interests in China and Options for Renewal of Canada’s China Policy refereed report released by the Canadian International Council (A Changing World: Canadian Foreign Policy Priorities, No. 4), 2009, “Neoauthoritarianism, urban bourgeoisie, and China’s democratization” in Wu Guoguang, and Helen Lansdowne (eds), Zhao Ziyang and China’s Democratic Future, (Routledge, 2008), “The ‘Beijing Consenus’ and China’s quest for legitimacy on the international stage” in André Laliberté and Marc Lanteigne (eds), The Chinese Party-State in the 21st Century, (Routledge, 2008)

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