By Patrick Meagher
OTTAWA — Our federal Liberal government and our provincial Liberal government love the idea of doing business with China in spite of that country’s long history of oppression of free speech, violation of basic human rights and heavy restrictions on foreign investment. As Canada looks to create closer ties and open our doors ever-wider to a police state, it is worth noting that doing business with China is not like doing business with a democracy.
Australia might be the best example of what it is like to do business with the Chinese, as communist China is Australia’s biggest trading partner.
In December, Australian Labour Party senator Sam Dastyari resigned after he received donations from companies owned by Chinese billionaire Haung Xiangmo. In return for money, Dastyari favoured pro-China positions, including China’s claim to the South China Sea, a position contrary to the Australian Labour Party.
Said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “Sam Dastyari is a very clear case of somebody who has literally taken money from people closely associated with the Chinese government and, in return for that, has delivered essentially Chinese policy statements.”
The problem doesn’t end there. The Australian Broadcasting Company counted 13 payments in only 18 months (from November 2014 to June 2016) from Haung’s companies to Australian politicians. The Australian prime minister admitted there are “disturbing reports about Chinese influence.”
China’s imperialism is global. New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service has called Chinese influence in New Zealand a national security threat. The New York Times reported in December that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency accused China of using LinkedIn and other social media sites to infiltrate the German government by targeting more than 10,000 citizens, including politicians. The Germans accuse China of spying by trying to win people’s trust as they pose as think-tanks and headhunters and offer all-expense paid trips to China to meet with influential clients. German officials say Chinese agents create fake profiles to approach targets and recruit sources. The president of German intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, called Chinese efforts “a broad attempt to infiltrate Parliaments, ministries and administrations.”
The United States is increasingly alarmed with Chinese activity within its borders. A U.S. congressional hearing on China last month offered this assessment by Florida senator Marco Rubio: “Attempts by the Chinese government to guide, buy, or coerce political influence and control discussion of sensitive topics are pervasive and pose serious challenges in the United States and our like-minded allies.”
The congressional hearing was chillingly titled: The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism with Chinese characteristics.
Canada is now seeing a huge increase in China-backed investment including the purchase of Canadian farmland and agri-food investment that includes a baby-formula factory at Kingston to supply the Chinese market. The Canadian federal government gifted that Chinese operation with $24 million. We are now waiting to see if the federal government will approve of China buying Canada’s largest construction company Aecon.
As far back as 2010, Richard Fadden, the head of Canada’s former spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) said that China was the most aggressive foreign country seeking influence in Canada by funding university clubs managed by people operating out of its embassy or a consulate to develop influence early on in people’s careers. He also noted, “There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government.”
China is busy influencing in many ways, including a world-wide marketing campaign to make Communist China look good. Before it partnered with China, the worlds’ largest academic book publisher, Springer Nature, was quick to remove more than 1,000 not-so favourable articles about China. What can one now expect about the academic integrity of this giant publisher?
So, while some Canadian food producers are looking at China as a new market to enhance the bottom line, it might be worth considering the advice of Senator Rubio. He called for the United States to form a stronger alliance with known allies Japan, Australia and India. Meantime, Canada must be very cautious while negotiating with a police state.