Category Archives: Asia

Navy performing provocative manoeuvres in South China Sea

Interesting how the military “defends” this country by sending ships 7,000 kilometres from Canadian soil.

Canada’s navy is running provocative maneuvers in the South China Sea. While they claim to be upholding the “international rules based order” in these missions, their main partner refuses to recognize the Law of the Sea.

At the end of last month HMCS Calgary passed near the Spratly Islands claimed by both China and the Philippines. In response Chinese vessels shadowed Calgary through the South China Sea.

In recent years Canadian vessels have repeatedly been involved in belligerent Freedom of Navigation (FON) exercises through international waters — claimed by Beijing — in the South China Sea, Strait of Taiwan, and East China Sea. To counter China’s growing influence in Asia, Washington has stuck its oar into long-standing territorial and maritime boundary disputes between China and the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and other nations. As part of these efforts to rally regional opposition to China, the US Navy has engaged in regular FON operations, which see warships travel through or near disputed waters.

Last year the Canadian Press obtained documents showing that FON efforts in the South China Sea were approved at the highest levels of government. When HMCS Ottawa traveled through the South China Sea’s Taiwan Strait the government said it “demonstrated Canadian support for our closest partners and allies, regional security and the rules-based international order.”

But Canadian FON missions are principally designed to demonstrate support for the US, which is one of only a handful of countries that has refused to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The US has failed to ratify UNCLOS even after gaining broad changes to the convention in 1994. Failing to ratify UNCLOS is but one of many examples of Washington’s hostility to the “international rules based order” the Trudeau government claims to uphold.

US Naval patrols in the region regularly violate UNCLOS. In “Do US Actions in the South China Sea Violate International Law?”, scholar Mark J. Valencia points out that their employment of sonobuoys (radar) to search for submarines is prohibited by UNCLOS. Valencia also questions whether FON exercises to pressure China violate the UN Charter. Irrespective of legal interpretations, Washington’s expressed concern over China’s failure to adhere to international norms in maritime disputes shouldn’t be taken too seriously given its own flagrant refusal to accept the Law of the Sea.

Ottawa is under pressure to increase its military contribution in a region with a significant US presence. (Le Monde Diplomatique pointed out that despite China’s 14,000 kilometers of coastline, it collides with the US military, which has bases sprinkled all around region, as soon as it goes out to sea.) Recently the Globe and Mail published “Canada urged to play bigger role with allies to counter China in the Indo-Pacific”. The story called on Ottawa to join the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes the US, India, Japan and Australia.

Incredibly, Canada may join an alliance focused on an area some 7,000 kilometers from Canada’s coast. Earlier this year, the Canadian Air Force participated in an anti-submarine warfare exercise in Guam known as Sea Dragon with the Quad nations for the first time.

While increasing, the Canadian navy’s presence in the region is nothing new. In 2012 it came to light the military sought a small base with a port facility in Singapore to keep an eye on China. For two decades the Canadian navy has made regular port visits to Asia and since its 1971 inception Canada has participated in every Rim of the Pacific Exercise, which is a massive US-led maritime warfare training action every two years.

During the early 1950s Korean War Canadian ships bombed North Korean and Chinese troops. They hurled 130,000 rounds at Korean targets. According to a Canadian War Museum exhibit, “during the war, Canadians became especially good at ‘train busting.’ This meant running in close to shore, usually at night, and risking damage from Chinese and North Korean artillery in order to destroy trains or tunnels on Korea’s coastal railway. Of the 28 trains destroyed by United Nations warships in Korea, Canadian vessels claimed eight.” Canadian Naval Operations in Korean Waters 1950-1955 details a slew of RCN attacks that would have likely killed civilians.

Before the outbreak of the Korean War the Canadian Navy sought to exert itself in the region. In a bizarre move, Ottawa sent a naval vessel to China in 1949 as the Communists were on the verge of victory. According to Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy, the boat was sent too late to stop the Kuomintang’s defeat by Mao’s forces and was not needed to evacuate Canadians since British boats could remove them. The objective, it seems, was to demonstrate to the US and UK “that Canada was a willing partner”, particularly in light of the emerging north Atlantic alliance.

A Canadian naval presence off China’s coast isn’t new. But running provocative maneuvers to support a nation that refuses to recognize the Law of the Sea is a bizarre way to uphold the “international rules based order”.

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Filed under Asia, Military

NDP in bed with neocons over China

 

Canadians truly committed to a rules-based, peaceful international order need voices in Parliament to speak up against militarism and the US empire. Instead we get a supposed ‘left’ party indistinguishable from the right.

The recent flap over an award given out by the Halifax International Security Forum highlights how the NDP is jumping into bed with neocon militarists over China.

Recently Washington-based Politico reported that the Trudeau government pressured the HSF not to give its John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. The government denied the charge but initially refused to recommit the $3 million in Department of National Defence (DND) funding for HSF.

NDP foreign affairs critic Jack Harris labeled any interference in the HSF award choice as “shameful and plays into the hands of the Communist leadership of China.” Harris also told Globe and Mail reporter Steven Chase that the award to Tsai would be “an indicator of how the free world is united against China’s bullying tactics.”

If Harris had stopped at “the free world is united against China’s bullying” it would have simply represented an example of his increasingly common China bashing. But Harris also lauded the HSF as “among the free world’s most significant defence meetings.” On Wednesday NDP MPs backed a Conservative motion in the House of Commons, which passed unanimously, supporting giving an award to Tsai and maintaining HSF’s funding.

Sponsored by NATO, DND and military companies, the HSF is based in Washington. It was set up by a neocon who advised the Harper government and was strongly promoted by arch militarist John McCain.

Since its founding a decade ago activists have rallied in front of the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel during the conference. I spoke at the 2018 protest.

The award Harris and Canadian MPs want HSF to give to Tsai is named after an individual who heavily promoted the lies that led to the 2003 Iraq war. John McCain also championed the NATO bombing of Libya and backed Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen. McCain rose to public attention in the late 1960s by dropping bombs on civilian targets (a war crime) in North Vietnam. During his presidential bid in 2000 McCain told reporters “I hate the gooks” and “I will hate them as long as I live.” McCain refused to apologize for using a racial slur to condemn the North Vietnamese who held him captive and tortured him.

Giving an award to Taiwan’s president is a provocative moved designed to increase tension with China. (While apparently Sinophobic reporter Steven Chase implies Beijing is the only force that has pushed the idea Taiwan and mainland China are one country, Ottawa recognized the government in Taiwan as the official representative of all of China for 21 years after the Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan with some two million Chinese supporters after they were defeated by Mao’s forces in 1949. Until 13 years ago the governing party in Taiwan openly claimed to represent all of China.) The award is part of HSF’s growing anti-China posture. In November they released a handbook titled “China vs. Democracy: The Greatest Game” that painted Beijing as a threatening force bent on global domination.

For HSF conflict with China feeds the military/intelligence apparatus they represent. It legitimates Canada spending hundreds of billions of dollars on new naval vessels and fighter jets as well as justifying the racist Five Eyes intelligence arrangement.

Voices citing the China ‘threat’ to justify military spending are growing. In “This is no time for the Liberals to think of slashing defence spending” National Post columnist John Ivison wrote that the government “should increase” military spending in next week’s budget “to counter China’s growing threat”. A recent CTV story said Ottawa should pony up $6 billion to modernize NORAD to deal with the “Threats from Russia, China” while an earlier Global News story said “Canada should follow Australia’s example in defence, foreign policy” by massively increasing military spending to deal with China.

By promoting China hysteria, the NDP is empowering militarists. When the NDP foreign affairs critic labels the Halifax International Security Forum “among the free world’s most significant defence meetings” it really is the No Difference Party.

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Filed under Asia, China, NATO, NDP

Ottawa owes apology for Agent Orange in Vietnam

A French legal battle offers an opportunity to revisit Canada’s role in chemical weapons use and whether Ottawa owes something to its Vietnamese victims.

On the weekend activists gathered in Paris to support a court case launched by a woman exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. The group Collectif Vietnam Dioxine is supporting French-Vietnamese woman, Tran To Nga, who is suing 14 companies that sold the powerful defoliant dioxin to the US military.

As a member of the Vietnamese Communists (Viet Cong) Nga breathed Agent Orange in 1966. She told the Associated Press “because of that, I lost one child due to heart defects. I have two other daughters who were born with malformations. And my grandchildren, too.” Spread between generations through breast milk, food and the water supply, Agent Orange victims’ children and grandchildren are often born with serious disabilities.

The toll the cancerous chemical had on Vietnam is staggering. Some three million Vietnamese were exposed to a defoliant that can cause immune deficiencies and damage one’s nervous system. Between 1962 and 1971 US forces sprayed 11 million litres of Agent Orange in southern Vietnam.

One aim was to deprive the guerrillas of cover by defoliating forests and rural land. Another goal of these defoliation efforts was to drive peasants from the countryside to the US-dominated cities, which would deprive the national resistance forces of their food supply and rural support.

During its war in Southeast Asia the US tested Agent Orange at CFB Gagetown. A 1968 US Army memorandum titled “defoliation tests in 1966 at base Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada” explained: “The department of the army, Fort Detrick, Maryland, has been charged with finding effective chemical agents that will cause rapid defoliation of woody and Herbaceous vegetation. To further develop these objectives, large areas similar in density to those of interest in South East Asia were needed. In March 1965, the Canadian ministry of defense offered Crops Division large areas of densely forested land for experimental tests of defoliant chemicals. This land, located at Canadian forces base Gagetown, Oromocto, New Brunswick, was suitable in size and density and was free from hazards and adjacent cropland. The test site selected contained a mixture of conifers and deciduous broad leaf species in a dense undisturbed forest cover that would provide similar vegetation densities to those of temperate and tropical areas such as South East Asia.”

From the late 1950s until the 1980s Agent Orange was tested on animals at CFB Gagetown. During this period the Department of National Defence sprayed millions of litres of chemical agents at Gagetown. In 2018 CBC interviewed a former military officer who said in the late spring of 1985 he was ordered to escort a flatbed truck along an empty road to a freshly dug pit at CFB Gagetown. Over 40 full or semi-full barrels — some dented or in various states of decay — were dumped in the spongy soil. Most of them were wrapped with an orange stripe with the words “Agent Orange”.

Canadian scientists also helped develop Agent Orange and other defoliants used to deny food to areas supporting anti-colonial insurgencies in Asia. Labs at McGill University overseen by the chemical and biological weapons director at the Defence Research Board, Otto Maass, researched the herbicides sprayed by the US in Vietnam and British in Malaya.

Some US veterans and others who fought in Vietnam with the US have been compensated for the impact Agent Orange had on them. In 2007 Canadian veterans groups helped win $20,000 in compensation for individuals harmed by Agent Orange and other toxic defoliants tested at CFB Gagetown.

But there has never been compensation for the primary victims of Agent Orange, the people of Vietnam. Hopefully the Tran To Nga case will offer some justice.

When will the Canadian government acknowledge and apologize for its role in this crime against humanity? Don’t the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange deserve at least that?

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Filed under Asia

Sinophobia sweeps Canadian politics

Conservative MP Raquel Dancho denouncing NDP and Green MPs Niki Ashton and Paul Manly

Paranoia, disregard for evidence and over-the-top rhetoric to encourage hate. And I’m not talking about Donald Trump’s Republicans.

Progressive Canadian should counter a wave of McCarthyite Sinophobia sweeping this country’s politics.

The over-the-top reaction to a recent “Zoom to Free Meng Wanzhou” highlights the issue. The event was labelled “Chinese Communist Party propaganda” in the House of Commons and criticized by numerous media. When interviewing Paul Manly about his participation in the event journalist Evan Solomon repeatedly accused the Green MP of being “used by Chinese authorities” and for “Chinese propaganda”.

What’s going on? As China became more prosperous, the US military began a “pivot” towards Asia a decade ago. More recently, some important US capitalists have become increasingly unhappy with the terms imposed by the Chinese government on their operations there. Simultaneously, labour costs in China have risen sharply in recent years, taking some of the shine off the country as a low-wage assembly hub.

Alongside these broader economic and geopolitical trends, Donald Trump has been railing against the “China disease” for months. This xenophobia is shaping Canadian politics as well. Most of the front-page of a February Vancouver Province read: “Second China Virus Case in BC” while in April Conservative leadership candidate, Derek Sloan, said Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam was working for China and advancing “Chinese Communist propaganda”. Polls show a sharp rise in insults, threats and assaults targeting Canadians of Chinese descent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China bashing is central to new Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s political messaging. He harps on about standing up for “Canadian values” against the Communist Party of China. In April O’Toole called for a “new Cold War” with China and recently said there’s “no greater threat to Canada’s interests than the rise of China”. (Greater than the climate crisis, COVID-19 pandemic, species collapse, opioid crisis, nuclear holocaust, economic inequality?)

To counter the Chinese “threat” the Conservatives openly appeal to British empire settler solidarity. In criticizing the “Free Meng Wanzhou” event in the House of Commons Conservative Shadow Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Raquel Dancho said, “all Canadian MPs need to stand with our Five Eyes partners and other like-minded allies to push back on Beijing’s intimidation tactics.” For his part, O’Toole recently declared, “Canada should work very closely with our Five Eyes allies” on countering the world’s most populous nation.

Settler colonialism and empire unite the Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and US Five Eyes alliance that excludes wealthier non-white nations (Japan and South Korea) or those with more English speakers (India and Nigeria). It’s not a coincidence that the only four countries that originally voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 are part of the Five Eyes.

There is a long history of stirring up Sinophobia in Canada as part of US/British conflict with that country. During the US-led Korean War in the early 1950s Canadian troops denigrated the “yellow horde” of North Korean and Chinese “chinks” they fought. At a time when a small number of Canadians helped the British suppress the boxer rebellion in 1900 newspapers labeled China the “sick man of Asia,” which threatened European social mores. In opposing voting rights for “Chinamen” in 1885, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald said he feared their enfranchisement would lead to officials who “represent Chinese eccentricities, Chinese immorality, Asiatic principles altogether opposite to our wishes.” He concluded, “the Chinese has no British instincts or British feelings or aspirations.”

Progressives should resist the current ‘Yellow peril’ rooted in geopolitical competition and racism. To do so we should be clear eyed about Chinese power, which is significant and often authoritarian though somewhat exaggerated. That country’s global influence has yet to reflect its share of the world’s population. In 2019 the country’s GDP per personwas $10, 000 – equal to Mexico – while US GDP was $60, 000. The US has over 800 military bases in 80 countries around the world while the UK has 145 military facilities in 42 countries. China has one international base in Djibouti. The US and UK have bases in numerous countries bordering China. (In June 2012 the Canadian Press reported, “Canada is seeking a deal with Singapore to establish a military staging post there as part of its effort to support the United States’ ‘pivot’ toward Asia to counter a rising China.”) How many bases does China have in Canada or Mexico?

Additionally, China rarely deploys troops internationally. The US, Canada and UK, on the other hand, have been involved in recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, etc.

As the oldest and most populous nation, a prosperous and united China unquestionably threatens the US Empire’s dominance. Decision-makers in Washington have been concerned about that since at least 1949, which is part of the reason they invaded Korea after Mao’s nationalist/communist victory.

The military and large sections of the ruling classes in those countries integrated into the US Empire want to prevent China from taking its rightful place in world affairs. They are pushing economic, political and military means to “contain” China.

But those of us who believe in equality for all people, who fight racism and xenophobia, must say no. Progressives need to resist the logic of empire and oppose the wave of Sinophobia sweeping Canadian politics.

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Filed under Asia, China

Double standard blatant on Israel and China ‘foreign influence’ in Canada

Foreign influence in Canada is bad if it comes from China, but not even worth mentioning if it comes from Israel. That seems to be the position of the Globe and Mail.

Canada’s ‘paper of record’ is so gripped with anti-Chinese fervor that it is blind to a blatant double standard. Contrasting the Globe and Mail’s reporting on Canadian groups close to China and Israel highlights the xenophobic nature of their coverage.

Alongside Washington’s bid to build international opposition to China, the Globe has sought to expose Chinese influence in Canada. The paper has recently criticized Chinese government funded Confucius Institutes, which sponsor Mandarin programs and other cultural endeavors. In an October 15 story titled “Beijing used influence over B.C. schools to push its agenda and keep tabs on Canadian politics, documents show” the Globe reported on a Vancouver area Confucius-Institute-promoted school program where children read a poem that included the line “I am proud! I am Chinese!”

In a follow-up column citing the poem reading titled “It’s time to kick the Confucius Institute out of Canada” Gary Mason complained, “we have no laws or protections to force organizations acting in the interest of foreign powers to be registered and accountable.”

In a column on Thursday titled “Canada’s laws about foreign agents haven’t caught up to the modern world” Campbell Clark also called for legislation to blunt Chinese influence in Canada. “The first [to do] is to establish much greater transparency about the people in Canada working on behalf of foreign interests. The second is a law that signals it is not acceptable to secretly do the bidding of a foreign government in Canada.”

On October 28 the Globe published a story headlined “Chinese-Canadian groups laud China’s fight against U.S., allies in Korean War”. The story quoted former Canadian diplomat and senior fellow at the right-wing Macdonald Laurier Institute, Charles Burton, saying “it is so wrong to get Canadians to identify with the interests of a foreign state. That goes against the principle of citizenship.”

(The Chinese-Canadian groups’ statement on the 1950-53 Korean War was historically accurate. As many as 4 million mostly Koreans and Chinese died in a war that was partly a response to the success of China’s communist/nationalist revolution. Before China entered the war US aircraft bombed that country and Beijing only sent forces into Korea after hundreds of thousands of hostile US-led troops approached its border.)

A follow up Globe commentary partly based on the Korean war story was titled “China’s Xi Jinping is mobilizing his propaganda machinery against the west”. It noted, “these groups are revealing themselves as being plugged in and susceptible to the Chinese propaganda media; they seem to identify with China rather than with Canada.”

Since August the Globe has published a series of other stories critical of Chinese influence, including “Ontario legislature criticized for plans to fly China’s flag on Wednesday”, “CSIS warns China’s Operation Fox Hunt is targeting Canada’s Chinese community”, “Trudeau says Beijing’s targeting of Canadian Chinese community has ‘intensified’”, “CSIS warns about China’s efforts to recruit Canadian scientists” and “Universities, school boards across Canada defend ties with China’s Confucius Institute”. Another story headlined “Canada failing to address rising complaints about foreign intimidation of rights activists, Amnesty International says”, claimed that “Chinese government officials and supporters of the Communist Party of China are increasingly resorting to ‘threats, bullying and harassment’ to intimidate and silence activists in Canada.”

As the Globe has campaigned against Chinese influence and those who “identify with the interests of a foreign state”, they’ve ignored far more flagrant examples of Israeli nationalists doing the same thing. The Globe failed to report on the Israel lobby’s recent “threats, bullying and harassment” of Foodbendors due to the Toronto restaurant’s support of the Palestinian cause. Last month an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others was delivered to Justice Minister David Lametti calling on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military. The Globe ignored the letter and associated legal complaint as well as a campaign that saw more than 1,400 individuals email every MP calling for an investigation into IDF recruitment. More broadly, the paper has ignored Israeli military recruitment in Canada.

As I recently detailed, a number of Toronto schools openly promote the Israeli military. Canada’s largest private high school, Toronto’s TanenbaumCHAT, organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and holds regular “IDF days.” Former and current Israeli soldiers also talk to the students about the IDF, which sometimes appears part of the Israeli consulate’s recruitment drives. Additionally, students sing the Israeli national anthem and fly the Israeli flag.

A school enticing young people to join another country’s military is a far clearer example of “acting in the interest of foreign powers” then reciting a nationalist Chinese poem or echoing Beijing’s perspective on the Korean War. But, if the above-mentioned comments directed at Chinese-Canadian organizations were leveled against groups promoting Israel there would be a flurry of accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ just as there were when two Liberal MPs were accused of promoting the interests of a foreign country.

But, the ‘allied with another country’ discourse is a red herring. Rather than a nationalist lens, progressives everywhere should judge these matters based on whether a position is emancipatory or oppressive. A statement critical of the US-led Korean War is progressive. A poem recital noting “I am proud! I am Chinese!” is progressive when made in reference to overcoming a century of foreign domination, but not if it supports Han supremacy against ethnic minorities in China.

Defending China is somewhat complicated. While there’s lots to object to about the Chinese government, it has succeeded in mostly breaking from foreign domination over the past 70 years. But, the country’s GDP per person is still only $10,261– equal to Mexico – and its global influence has yet to reflect its share of the world’s population.

Promoting Israel — let alone recruiting for its military — is unquestionably oppressive. With a $43,641 per person GDP, nuclear arms and staunch support from the world’s hegemon, Israel has spent its entire history taking ever more of the indigenous population’s land. The Israeli military is currently imprisoning Gaza and occupying land in Syria and the West Bank in contravention of international law. Israel has bombed most Middle Eastern countries and in recent years has been bombing Syria on a near weekly basis.

Understanding what is truly going on in the realm of foreign affairs is complicated. But when double standards appear as blatant as the Globe and Mail’s coverage of groups close to China and Israel every thinking person must question what they are being told.

One must at least consider the possibility that rather than defending Canadian interests perhaps people attacking China are motivated by racism and Trumpian nationalist ‘keep America on top of the world’ sentiments.

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Filed under Asia, Campbell Clark, Gary Mason