When campaigning to become prime minister in 2015, Justin Trudeau was asked what country he most admired in the world. The people in attendance looked on in disbelief when he stated that he most admired China.
Trudeau believed China’s “basic dictatorship” allowed their government to move swiftly to implement their agenda.
Trudeau’s obsession with China should not come as any surprise. For decades, many corporate and financial insiders were espousing deeper and closer ties with China at all costs. They were willing to look past the numerous human rights abuses, flagrant trade abuses and security issues because the potential to sell into the massive Chinese market was so lucrative.
Beijing knows this and plays on it.
Trudeau was a student of this school of thought, which is why he asked the head of the Canada China Business Council to lead his transition team into government.
I will soon be asking Canadians for their trust to become prime minister. The country I admire the most is the one I’ve dedicated my life to serving: Canada. So Canadians deserve to know where I stand on China.
We must be sure that Canadians realize that our political differences with the communist government in China has nothing to do with China, the country. The millions of Canadians with Chinese ancestry aren’t connected with our diplomatic differences with China. In fact, the vast majority of Chinese-Canadians saw their families immigrate to Canada for the liberties and opportunities that they could never achieve there.
We can’t allow for any discrimination against Canadians because of a serious approach to diplomacy with China.
Second, I want Canadians to know that over the last four years I’ve consistently asked for a more serious foreign policy approach to Canada-China relations.
I’ve been asking for Canada to take cyber security and other issues seriously and ensure that Huawei was not part of our critical 5G infrastructure.
I’ve been raising human rights concerns for the oppressed Uyghur minority within China.
I’ve raised concerns about China manipulating United Nations agencies from the World Health Organization to International Civil Aviation Organization.
And I’ve been asking the government to speak up for Hong Kong and Taiwan, which have been targeted by the communist regime.
I’ve often said Canada needs an eyes-wide-open approach to China to see the country as it is and not how corporate lobbyists would like it to be.
While Trudeau bases his views on what he has been told by these circles, I’ve based my views on my own experience:
- As a lawyer who investigated counterfeiting issues based out of China and the abuse of Western intellectual property.
- As a veteran who has been watching the military expansion of China and its ambitions in the Arctic.
- As a Canadian who believes we can’t ignore human rights abuses and bad conduct just because we want to grow our exports.
The Trudeau approach on China has failed and weakened our standing in the world.
We must stand up for our citizens who have been detained as bargaining chips in an extradition case even if it leads to more reprisals from Beijing.
We must work with our allies, including the Five Eyes countries, India and Japan, to counterbalance the trade actions of China, and to present a united front of opposition to the treatment of the Uyghurs and the violation of the one-country, two-systems agreement for Hong Kong.
We must grow new markets and repatriate some critical manufacturing to ensure we can weather the likely push-back from China for our standing on principle.
Canada is a small country when compared to China on an economic basis, but we are a giant when it comes to our commitment to our values and our allies.
Rather than fawning over the trade potential with China, we should be resolute in our commitment to free trade with countries that value liberty and playing by the rules.
As the global trading system realigns following the pandemic, Canada must help lead this process to ensure we benefit from it, rather than being dragged along as an afterthought.
Every time we refuse to stand up for liberty and our core beliefs and interests as a nation in the face of aggression from the Chinese regime, we legitimize their behaviour and encourage more bad actions.
We also show our allies around the world that our commitment to freedom is shallow.
Erin O’Toole is the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.