Today, China is proving to be Canada’s public enemy number one and an ambassador who wishes to appease Chinese interests is not in line with Canada’s foreign policy.
Ambassador McCallum's comments on Meng Wanzhou's extradition process are unacceptable and are not representative what Canada should be trying to achieve with regards to China. They are also a sign of a pervasive problem with how Canada tries to enact its foreign policy interests internationally.
Since establishing diplomatic relations with the communist state, Canada’s approach to China has been muddled and haphazard.
It’s been a cycle of rhetorical admonishment and a preference for the status quo. Most of the time, Canada works alongside China, trying to piggyback off China’s rapidly growing economy. Yet ever so often, China does something that can’t be ignored.
In our current case, it’s the arbitrary detainment of Canadian citizens.
What we need to realize is that the status quo with China isn’t congenial relations, but rather, it’s fickle assertiveness. President Xi Jinping holds uncontested power in perpetuity, his word and whims are law.
We shouldn’t be surprised when China lashes back at perceived slights and we shouldn’t expect the Chinese government to play by international rules.
Canada needs to take a unified foreign policy approach when it comes to China and ambassador John McCallum’s comments on the extradition of Meng Wanzhou are a sign of a pervasive disconnect between a united federal approach and our diplomatic operatives on the ground.
In his book, “Middle Power, Middle Kingdom”, Canada’s former ambassador to China, David Mulroney illustrates the “increasingly chaotic and uncoordinated way in which we attempt “manage” international relations.”
Within international relations, a “middle power” refers to a state that isn’t a superpower but is still able to wield moderate influence over others. Canada is a textbook example of a historically successful middle power.
In the past, Canada has been able to steer a steady course in foreign relations relatively peacefully, carving its own place in the global community that was neither adversarial, nor complacent. This was especially evident with how we handled China during the Cold War.
By opening diplomatic channels with the Chinese government, which was still in its turbulent youth, we opened a valuable stream of communication, while also creating a foreign policy distinctly different from our neighbor’s.
However, that was a different time, and a different China.
Today, China is asserting itself onto the world, no longer seeking to make allies but rather to strong arm weaker nations to do their bidding. Somewhere along the way, Canada forgot any sense of purpose when it came to dealing with China.
As Mulroney’s book outlines, the diplomats on the ground have become detached from executive authority which has resulted in failures to communicate.
In McCallum’s case, he seems to have taken it upon himself to represent Canadian interests and in this he has made a grave mistake.
As Mulroney pointed out in a CBC interview, the ambassador’s credibility has been compromised and his comments have contributed to further confusion in Canada’s foreign policy.
In the face of China’s new-found arrogance, Canada needs to start asserting itself. We can no longer expect congeniality because of our past kindness.
What Canada requires is new leadership willing to approach a consistent foreign policy towards all foreign powers and not the selective and haphazard attitude we’ve taken so far.
Canada needs to stand up to China and McCallum needs to step down.