The Chinese ambassador to Canada recently sat down for an interview with Ottawa Life Magazine, a pro-Beijing publication, where he accused Canada of undermining relations between the two countries and demanded that Canadians have more respect for China.
“The process of mutual respect was broken by Canada,” said ambassador Cong Peiwu, according to Blacklock's Reporter. "Mutual respect means we respect systems here and the choices of Canadians here, but Canadians do not respect the Chinese system. This does not work well."
Peiwu told the publication that Canada could help repair their relationship by releasing Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO who was arrested in Vancouver in 2018 on a US extradition request. Ottawa Life Magazine, which published the ambassador's words uncritically, hosts advertisements for Huawei on its website.
Peiwu argued that Canadians should take inspiration from previous generations on how to have diplomatic relations with China. “Older generations were aware of the differences between the two countries, who have different systems, but still they managed to make the bold decision that led to a sound stable relationship," Peiwu said. "Fifty years on, this has led to huge progress in relations with tangible benefits for both Canada and China."
Critics of Canada-China relations would argue that things have changed since then. China is now a massive economic force with large influence over trade. Approximately 12 percent of Canada's imports originate in China. While China does have a history of political suppression and violence, as do many countries Canada has diplomatic relationships with, the China of today exploits the forced labour of ethnic minorities in concentration camps.
The topic of genocide did not come up in the interview even though the Canadian Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee has formally accused China of committing one.
Peiwu also discussed the detainment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been arbitrarily detained in China since early 2019 in retaliation for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou.
“The two Canadian citizens are in good health,” Peiwu told the magazine. “The two Canadians were arrested on suspected crimes according to the law in China."
When further asked about their condition, Peiwu said that reports of the Michaels “receiving harsh treatment is not in line with the facts.” He continued “reports that their reading glasses had been taken away are not true. Because China is following COVID-19 rules, they are both in good health because of the rules and because China is following the rules under International conventions.”
Peiwu criticized Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole for suggesting that China and Canada are adversaries. “People should be careful with their comments — China is peaceful and believes in multilateralism and development,” Peiwu said. The claims of peace and multilateralism clash with recent comments made by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who told his troops in October to "prepare for war" as they performed a staged invasion of Taiwan drill.
“China will actively promote international co-operation through the Belt and Road Initiative. In doing so, we hope to achieve policy, infrastructure, trade, financial, and people-to-people connectivity and thus build a new platform for international co-operation to create new drivers of shared development,” Peiwu further argued.
While the Belt and Road Initiative has been praised by some countries for increasing international cooperation and helping poorer countries develop, others have accused China of using the initiative as a pretext for neocolonialism or "debt trapping," whereby the Chinese government lends money they know cannot be paid back. When other countries fail to pay back China, China will seize some of the country's most important assets. In Sri Lanka, for example, the Chinese government seized a port in 2017 after the Sri Lankan government defaulted on loans.
Peiwu praised other peace initiatives of China, including the country's commitment to the UN. “China has committed more than 40,000 troops to UN Peacekeeping which is the largest contingent from any country in recent years," Peiwu claimed. He also boasted China's climate change strategy, saying “China, like most countries, continues serious efforts on its climate change agenda with tangible results.” China produces nearly one third of all human CO2 emissions.
Peiwu finished off his interview by further discussing China's trade relations, speaking of China's third annual China International Import Expo (CIIE), an event dedicated to promoting China as an importer.
Speaking at the CIIE, President Xi Jinping said that China “will steadfastly expand all-round opening up and explore more efficient ways to connect domestic and foreign markets and share factors of production and resources.”