It’s odd agreeing with Terence Corcoran, Robert Friedland, Barrick Gold’s CEO and other leading capitalists. But they are the main force checking the out-of-control intelligence agency/military industrial complex/US Empire faction of Canada’s ruling class promoting conflict with China.
Canadian foreign policy is broadly driven by two main factors: support for empire (historically British and today US) and assisting Canadian corporate interests. Rarely is there a large-scale clash between the two forces, but there is on China.
Many leading capitalists and important segments of the broader business community are uncomfortable about following Washington’s confrontational policy towards a country that has been the engine of global capitalism in recent decades. In fact, some of the most nefarious forces on Canadian foreign policy are restraining government policy as the Financial Post recently detailed in “Did driving China out of its lithium industry hurt Canadian miners?”
At the start of the month Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow criticized Ottawa for pushing to exclude Chinese firms. In “Barrick CEO Bristow rails against Ottawa’s interference in Canadian mining industry” he told the Globe and Mail Report on Business that Barrick could accept new investment from state-controlled Chinese companies.
Similarly, during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference “toxic Bob” Friedland criticized the government in a speech The Northern Miner headlined “Make metals with China not war, Friedland tells PDAC.” In his speech to PDAC the next day Industry minister François-Philippe Champagne was forced to “rebuff criticism” from the infamous founder of Ivanhoe.
A long-time ideologue for Canada’s wealth holders, Terrence Corcoran recently published “Keep politics out of Canada-China trade”. The Financial Post columnist opined that “amid the daily barrage of China conflict issues, balloon shoot-downs, TikTok scares, political interference reports, imprisoned Canadians and expelled diplomats, a general sense is emerging that China is enemy territory, economically and ideologically. Voters are getting the message. But it is the wrong message.”
There is a vigorous debate on China in the business pages. Last Saturday the Report on Business’ US columnist published “Montana’s law to ban TikTok is an overreach” while two days earlier they responded to former Conservative governor general David Johnston’s report with “Canada-China trade will remain strong whatever the path forward”. Seeking to assuage the fears among the corporate set, the article argued that Canadian brands such as Tim Hortons, Lululemon and Canada Goose remain popular among middle-class Chinese consumers despite political disputes.
In a bombshell report Johnston poured cold water on CSIS’ fear mongering over Chinese interference. The special rapporteur on foreign interference concluded that a public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference was unnecessary and that Globe and Mail and Global News stories misconstrued China’s role in Canada. Johnston couldn’t find evidence for the claim that China provided $250,000 to political candidates, that Liberal MP Han Dong pushed to keep the two-Michaels in jail, or that Chinese officials sought to intimidate Michael Chong’s family in Hong Kong and other stories.
The report was embarrassing to journalists Sam Cooper, Robert Fife, Steven Chase, Andrew Coyne and others hyping Chinese interference. But the sycophants of the US Empire have never allowed truth to get in the way of a good story. Ignoring the egg on their face, they’ve returned to screeching about Chinese interference.
On China, leftists are in a tricky position. As a partisan matter, the Liberals are better than the NDP, which has been stunningly hawkish. Incredibly, the NDP responded to the Johnson report by siding with the Conservatives childish attacks against him, presenting a motion in the House of Commons urging Johnston to step aside as special rapporteur.
More broadly, there are good ecological and class reasons to support the hawks push to “decouple” economically from China (and the region). Shipping products 10,000 km is not sustainable and capitalists have used outsourcing to undercut workers’ wages and power.
The problem is what is driving the current push to decouple. This is about reasserting the US Empire’s primacy. Conflict between the two great powers undercuts the international cooperation required to combat the climate and other ecological crises. It also amplifies anti-Asian xenophobia within Canada and justifies militarization. Most concerning, it could lead to an apocalyptic war.
Canadian policy towards China is caught between the US empire/military industrial complex and capitalist factions of the ruling class. While Canada’s Chinese diaspora has restrained some of the most belligerent elements, there’s little in the way of an organized internationalist, anti-imperialist movement articulating a serious alternative.
But that is exactly what we need because we cannot trust the self-interested capitalists who currently are the main group restraining the war-minded pro-empire forces.