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.
It’s curious how Globe and Mail reporters troubled by foreign influence over Canadian politics regularly turn to US-government-funded groups in this country. Are they aware of this irony? Or is their purported concern about foreign influence really about demonizing China?
According to a recent article by Robert Fife and Steven Chase, the Trudeau government is “actively considering” setting up a registry of foreign agents to track those paid to influence Canadian politics on behalf of other states. The story — and previous ones from Chase and Fife — suggest a registry is a way to check “the Chinese government’s influence” over Canadian politics. The two journalists and others at the Globe have been campaigning aggressively against Chinese influence and now the government looks ready to buckle. “The government is focused on protecting Canadian democracy from foreign influence, and a registry of foreign agents is something that we are actively considering,” Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Robert Oliphant, told the Globe. “We are aware that some of our allies, namely, the United States and Australia, already have foreign agent registries in place and we are studying that.”
A day before Fife and Chase reported on plans for a foreign agents’ registry — a fine idea if applied broadly — Aidan Jonah published a report in The Canada Files titled “Subcommittee report declaring ‘Uighur Genocide’ dominated by researchers and groups funded by CIA cut-out, National Endowment for Democracy”. The story includes a remarkable revelation about the Ottawa-based Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project. The group’s website states openly that the “Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project is funded by the Washington-based National Endowment Fund for Democracy for its Advocacywork in Canada.” (my emphasis)
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was established in 1983 to work alongside the CIA. In 1991 Allen Weinstein, a founding member and president, told the Washington Post, “a lot of what we [NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
NED funding for Uighur groups in Canada is not to support charity work. There are only around 1,500 Uighurs in Canada and this country is about as far from Xinjiang as anywhere. The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project is a political organization that is openly seeking to Balkanize China. Its site says it aims “to document the policies of China’s government targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic people in East Turkistan in China and globally.” Moreover, it says it defends “Uyghurs and other natives of East Turkistan who are living under Chinese occupation since 1949.” In other words, the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project rejects the legitimacy of the nationalist/communist revolution that united China after more than a century of foreign domination.
Fife and Chase are concerned about Chinese influence in Canada. But they seem indifferent to far more pervasive US influence. Two days before their latest story about the dangers of foreign-funded agents in Canada, Fife and Chase quoted Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project executive director Mehmet Tohti. They have quoted the NED-funded group on multiple occasions over the past year. They have also quoted other NED financed groups such as the World Uyghur Congress.
Fife and Chase ought to be embarrassed by the crass double standard. But remorse is unlikely. In November I detailed how the Globe considers foreign influence in Canada bad if it comes from China, but barely worth mentioning when Israel is involved. The contrast is even starker with the US. In October, for instance, the MacDonald Laurier Institute published a widely cited commentary titled “Shining a Brighter Light on Foreign Influence in Canada” critical of Chinese influence and calling on Ottawa to regulate foreign agents. Last month the group set up Disinfowatch.org, which appears focused on Chinese and Russian influence. But the MacDonald Laurier Institute’s initiative is funded by the US State Department’s Global Engagement Center!
Fife, Chase and others’ blatant double standard regarding “foreign influence” in Canada is contributing to a wave of Sinophobia sweeping political life. Is this the intent of US funding for anti-China propaganda? Are Canadian journalists the willing tools or ‘useful idiots’ of this campaign?
The irony of this “reporting” about “foreign influence” would be rather amusing except for the fact is could lead us into a conflict that leaves the entire world worse off.
For those who support a truly just foreign policy comparing Canadian politicians’ reactions to protests in Hong Kong and the slightly more populous Haiti is instructive. It reveals the extent to which this country’s politicians are forced to align with the US Empire.
Despite hundreds of thousands of Canadians having close ties with both Haiti and Hong Kong, only protests in the latter seem to be of concern to politicians.
Recently NDP MP Niki Ashton and Green MP Paul Manly were attacked ferociously in Parliament and the dominant media for participating in a webinar titled “Free Meng Wanzhou”. During the hullabaloo about an event focused on Canada’s arrest of the Huawei CFO, Manly — who courageously participated in the webinar, even if his framing of the issue left much to be desired — and Ashton — who sent a statement to be read at the event but responded strongly to the backlash in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press — felt the need to mention Hong Kong. Both the NDP (“Canada must do more to help the people of Hong Kong”) and Greens (“Echoes of Tiananmen Square: Greens condemn China’s latest assault on democracy in Hong Kong”) have released multiple statements critical of Beijing’s policy in Hong Kong since protests erupted there nearly two years ago. So have the Liberals, Bloc Québecois and Conservatives.
In March 2019 protests began against an extradition accord between Hong Kong and mainland China. Hong Kongers largely opposed the legislation, which was eventually withdrawn. Many remain hostile to Beijing, which later introduced an anti-sedition law to staunch dissent. Some protests turned violent. One bystander was killed by protesters. A journalist lost an eye after being shot by the police. Hundreds more were hurt and thousands arrested.
During more or less the same period Haiti was the site of far more intense protests and state repression. In July 2018 an uprising began against a reduction in subsidies for fuel (mostly for cooking), which morphed into a broad call for a corrupt and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse to go. The uprising included a half dozen general strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month. An October 2019 poll found that 81% of Haitians wanted the Canadian-backed president to leave.
Dozens, probably over 100, were killed by police and government agents. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other western establishment human rights organizations have all documented dozens of police killings in Haiti. More recently, Moïse has ruled by decree, sought to extend his term and to rewrite the constitution. Yet, I couldn’t find a single statement by the NDP or Greens, let alone the Liberals or Conservatives, expressing support for the pro-democracy movement in Haiti.
Even an equal number of statements from a Canadian political party would be less than adequate. Not only were the protests and repression far more significant in Haiti, the impact of a Canadian politician’s intervention is far more meaningful. Unlike in Hong Kong, the police responsible for the repression in Haiti were trained, financed and backed by Canada. The Trudeau government even gave $12.5 million to the Haitian police under its Feminist International Assistance Policy! More broadly, the unpopular president received decisive diplomatic and financial support from Ottawa and Washington. In fact, a shift in Canada/US policy towards Moïse would have led to his ouster. On the other hand, a harder Canada/US policy towards Hong Kong would have led to well … not much.
The imperial and class dynamics of Haiti are fairly straightforward. For a century Washington has consistently subjugated the country in which a small number of, largely light-skinned, families dominate economic affairs. During the past 20 years Canada has staunchly supported US efforts to undermine Haitian democracy and sovereignty.
Hong Kong’s politics are substantially more complicated. Even if one believes that most in Hong Kong are leery of Beijing’s growing influence — as I do — the end of British rule and reintegration of Hong Kong into China represents a break from a regrettable colonial legacy. Even if you take an entirely unfavorable view towards Beijing’s role there, progressive Canadians shouldn’t focus more on criticizing Chinese policy in Hong Kong than Canadian policy in Haiti.
Echoing an open letter signed by David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig and 150 others and the demands of those who occupied Justin Trudeau’s office last year, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau critical of Canadian support for Moïse. It notes, “Canada must reassess its financial and political support to the Jovenel Moïse government, including police training, until independent investigations are conducted into government corruption in the Petrocaribe scandal and ongoing state collusion with criminal gangs.” The NDP, Greens and others should echo the call.
To prove they are more concerned with genuinely promoting human rights – rather than aligning with the rulers of ‘our’ empire – I humbly suggest that progressive Canadians hold off on criticizing Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong until they have produced an equal number of statements critical of Canada’s role in Haiti.
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.
According to National Post columnist John Ivison, I am. (“Useful idiots of the world unite – and they have, with ‘Free Meng’ event”) So are others who challenge the narrative that authoritarian China is such a danger to the US/Britain/Canada/Australia/New Zealand “Five Eyes” settler colonial states’ way of life that we must spend ever more billions on the military, put corporate executives under house arrest for Trumped up crimes and have our governments interfere in their supposedly sacred “free market” to ensure “our companies” dominate emerging communications technology. Afterall, we can’t take the chance that China might spy on us — that’s the job of our “intelligence services”.
But perhaps Ivison and his ilk should look in the mirror when searching for the “confused and misguided” who are duped into aiding another country’s agenda. They seem unable to see the forest of the US Empire for the Chinese trees.
According to experts, a country’s foreign policy is supposed to be all about defending its “self-interest” but what exactly is that?
Was it in ordinary Canadians’ self-interest to arrest a Huawei executive at the bidding of a Trump administration that reneged on an anti-nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposed sanctions against the wishes of Ottawa, Britain, France, Germany and most of the rest of the world? Wasn’t it obvious that our second largest trading partner would be angered and upset? It was certainly obvious to the other countries that refused Washington’s request to arrest Meng Wanzhou.
It seems a reasonable proposition to suggest that the arrest was in fact not in the self-interest of ordinary Canadians, but rather was undertaken to avoid the wrath of a narcissistic president and his Make America Great Again gang of extreme US nationalists.
Certainly, the ratcheting up of confrontation with China was not, and is not, in the self-interest of Canadian pork producers or farmers who grow canola and other crops that are sold to the 1.4 billion people of the world’s most populous country. Or to the tens of thousands of Canadians whose livelihoods are dependent on trade with what will soon be the world’s largest market.
US sanctions against and the banning of Huawei equipment from telecommunications networks are certainly not in the immediate self-interest of the thousands of Canadians who work in research labs owned by that company.
Most important, going along with the White nationalist tainted Trumpian demonization of China is not in the self-interest of the nearly two million Chinese Canadians who will face the brunt of the racism that is the inevitable result of rising tensions.
What would be in the self-interest of most Canadians would be a federal government that asserted our independence from Washington, that developed a foreign policy aimed at actually doing good in the world, rather than simply talking about it.
Also in the self-interest of Canadians (and most of the world) would be a government that treated people everywhere with respect and worked towards ensuring their dignity by supporting efforts to share the world’s finite resources fairly. Such a government might still make enemies, but they would be the rulers of countries and corporations who insist on taking more than their fair share, exploiting others and destroying our planet while proclaiming “greed is good, war is peace and there are no limits to growth”.
Does believing this make one a “useful idiot” or should the epithet be redirected to those who believe the best we can strive for is junior partner to those who brought us Donald Trump?
In a recent commentary Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith suggested Green Party candidates’ path to victory was to question Canada’s “One China” policy. According to Smith, the candidates “missed an opportunity to win over the large number of Canadians who trace their roots back to Hong Kong and Taiwan and who are thoroughly disgusted with the behaviour of the Chinese government.”
Smith went on to say that if Green Party candidates’ had spoken out against the “Sinofascists in charge in China,” some of the large Hong Kong expat community in Canada “would have come out in force for any Green Party of Canada candidate who declared on their website that our country needs to respect the democratic desires of the former colony’s brave, democracy-loving residents.”
While Smith’s argument might persuade some caught up in the present wave of anti-China sentiment, the premise of his argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Whatever one’s opinion of the Chinese government, it is not wise to interfere in the internal affairs of another country—especially one so big and powerful.
So why would an otherwise sensible individual write such nonsense about China? Because as beneficiaries of Anglo-American colonialism we can be blind to our arrogance. Because the US, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand “Five Eyes” security agencies promote this type of thinking.
Let’s start with a little background:
Between 1841 and 1997 Hong Kong was a colony and dependent territory of the UK (with a Japanese interlude during World War II). Hong Kong was taken over at the end of the first British Opium War. That war weakened China’s central government and divided the country into foreign spheres of influence.
Taiwan’s relationship to mainland China is more complicated. Historically it was more independent from mainland China but the Kuomintang retreated there with some two million Chinese supporters in 1949 after they were defeated by Mao’s forces. For 21 years Ottawa recognized the government in Taiwan as the official representative of all China and until 12 years ago the governing party in Taiwan openly claimed it represented all of China.
From the Chinese perspective a One China policy reflects the end of the “century of humiliation” spurred by the Opium Wars. But, even after Mao’s victory largely consolidated the country and strengthened the central government, foreign powers sought to weaken China. In response to Mao’s victory, Canada sent 27,000 troops to Korea in the early 1950s where they fought Chinese troops. Canada refused to recognize the Chinese government until 1970.
More recently, Canada has pursued various measures to isolate and weaken China. Canada’s navy has run provocative patrols near its waters; Ottawa arrested one of its leading capitalists; the military has sought a small base in Singapore to keep an eye on China; Canada has troops in South Korea as part of a mission to contain China; Ottawa has sold nuclear material to India to counter China; Ottawa has failed to allow its firm to provide 5G networks, etc.
But, unlike similar destabilization/isolation campaigns against Venezuela, Iran, Haiti, etc., targeting China has limited negative impact on the target population because it is a very large country that has mostly broken from foreign domination. That doesn’t mean these efforts are benign however.
Conflict with China feeds the military/intelligence apparatus. It legitimates spending on new naval vessels and fighter jets as well as justifying the racist Five Eyes intelligence arrangement.
It has broader reverberations as well. China is so powerful that the Washington-led block’s efforts to target it undermines humanity’s efforts to mitigate the current pandemic, climate crisis and other pressing global matters.
The world doesn’t need a second Cold War. Calling for an end to Canada’s One China policy pushes us further down that path. So does calling for sanctions on China.
China is the most populous nation in the world. It’s only right that it would be among (or the) most powerful. We need to accept China’s rise and not expect a return to its previous weak and impoverished state. We also need to acknowledge its sensitivities because of the foreign interference the country had to overcome during its return to independence.
This isn’t an endorsement of the Chinese government’s policy in Hong Kong and Xinjiang or towards the “two Michaels” they’ve detained or “communist” billionaires. It’s simply the starting point for a serious, healthy, discussion of Canada-China relations.
Canada is locked in a hostage standoff with China that doesn’t look likely to end anytime soon. As relations with the world’s most populous nation deteriorate, it’s important to consider some history shaping the conflict and the impetus for the latest dispute. While most of the media present this conflict in a simplistic us-versus-them, good-guys-bad-guys framing, past and present actions by Canada and the “West” reveal a centuries-old pattern of colonialism, imperialism, military threats, diplomatic isolation and other forms aggressive behavior aimed at weakening and “containing” China.
While the Chinese government has adopted various authoritarian measures recently, today’s conflict is still centered on US efforts to curtail China’s rise. Most directly, Washington has sought to stunt the growth of telecommunications giant Huawei, the “Crown Jewel of China Inc”. The US has effectively banned the world’s largest 5G network provider from building its cutting-edge broadband infrastructure and pressed others to follow suit. Canada’s arrest and continued detention of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, is connected to Washington’s efforts to curtail that company and China more generally.
This is in line with a long history of Canadian involvement in efforts to exploit and contain China. Beginning in the 1820s, the British began to dominate the ancient empire. In two wars fought over trade and diplomatic relations, notes Noam Chomsky, “the British government compelled China to open its doors to opium from British India, sanctimoniously pleading the virtues of free trade as they forcefully imposed large-scale drug addiction on China.” The Opium War of 1836 is considered by many to be the beginning of China’s “Century of Humiliation”. Over that century Britain, France, Japan, Russia, Germany and the US all developed spheres of influence in China. The foreigners played the country’s regions off of each other, keeping China’s central government weak.
Canada, as a loyal part of the Empire, aided the British conquest of China. Some Canadians fought in China and the British commander of the Canadian Militia from 1880-84, Lieutenant-General Richard George Amherst Luard, served there. In 1900 Canada was contracted to supply the British forces quelling the Boxer Rebellion. Canadian missionaries were also a significant force in China and they generally aided the foreign powers as detailed in “When Missionaries Were Hated: An Examination of the Canadian Baptist Defense of Imperialism and Missions during the Boxer Rebellion, 1900”. By 1919 there were nearly 600 Canadian missionaries in China.
Ottawa tacitly supported Japan’s brutal 1931 invasion of China’s Manchuria region that left 20,000 dead. “Whatevermay be thought of the moral or ethical rights of the Japanese to be in and to exercise control over Manchuria their presence there must be recognized as a stabilizing and regulating force,” noted the Canadian diplomat who opened the first Canadian mission in Japan, Hugh Llewellyn Keenleyside. Six years later the Canadian ambassador to China, Randolph Bruce, told the Toronto Star that Japan’s invasion of Nanking, to the west of Manchuria, was “simply an attempt to put her neighbour country into decent shape, as she has already done in Manchuria.” Some 20,000 women were raped and tens of thousands of Chinese killed in the six weeks after Japan entered Nanking.
In the fall of 1941 Ottawa sent 1,975 troops to defend the British colony of Hong Kong from Japan. “Hong Kong constituted an outpost which the Commonwealth intended to hold” read an External Affairs message to London in response to a request for troops. A number of Chinese-Canadians were covertly sent into China during World War Two partly because “whenever the Japanese capitulated, it would be useful to have on hand a team to enter Hong Kong promptly to help reestablish the British writ there.” HMCS Prince Robert also helped the British reoccupy Hong Kong.
After the Second World War Canada sided with Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang against Mao’s Communists. Ottawa aided the Kuomintang by sending 170 planes and providing $60 million in export credits between 1945 and 1948. The money was granted even though some members of the Liberal cabinet opposed taking sides in the Chinese Civil War.
Mao’s government was met with hostility from Ottawa. Canada refused to recognize the Chinese government until 1970. A November 1949 External Affairs memo complained, “China must now be regarded as a potential enemy state.” Steven Lee further summarized the 1949 External Affairs report: “The rise of communist power on the mainland ‘confronted the Atlantic Pact [NATO] powers with considerable strategic and political problems.’ In Japan, argued the memo, the US position was threatened by a potentially hostile power in China; the usefulness of Korea and Taiwan as military bases would be undermined, and in Southeast Asia, ‘the source of vital raw materials,’ Western interests were menaced by the impetus the Chinese revolution gave to communist movements.”
While they framed it as anti-Communist, US mandarins feared Chinese nationalism and worried that revolutionary nationalist ideology would spread throughout the region. Some within Canada’s External Affairs department had similar concerns, worrying that “Communist China might dominate ‘all Asian communist states’ and form ‘a new Asian alliance — linked neither with the Soviet Union nor the United States.’”
Partly in response to Mao’s triumph, Ottawa began its first (non-European) aid program in 1950. The Colombo Plan’s primary aim was to keep the former British Asian colonies, especially India, within the Western capitalist fold.
Canadian aid to African countries was also designed to minimize Chinese influence. Led for two decades by socialist leaning Julius Nyerere, Tanzania became a major recipient of Canadian aid due to Ottawa’s concern that this former British colony might align with China. Tanzania’s 1964 request for Chinese trainers disturbed Washington and Ottawa. A July 1969 Canadian Interdepartmental Military Assistance Committee memo explained: “Although it is clear from Tanzania’s decision to terminate our military assistance program that we have not succeeded in preventing the swing to virtual full reliance on China, we did succeed in postponing this development until the Tanzanian forces were basically organized and had acquired their own internal cohesion, which should leave them in a much better position to deal with possible Chinese subversion.”
After Mao’s forces took control in 1949 the US tried to encircle the country. They supported Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, built military bases in Japan, backed a right-wing dictator in Thailand and tried to establish a pro-Western state in Vietnam. The success of China’s nationalist revolution also spurred the 1950-1953 Korean War in which eight Canadian warships and 27,000 Canadian troops participated. The war left as many as 1 million Chinese soldiers dead.
After pushing North Korean troops back to the 38th parallel, the artificial line that divided the North and South, the US-led force moved to conquer the entire country. UN troops continued north in a bid to undermine China’s new government. US officials, particularly UN force commander Douglas MacArthur, repeatedly attacked Mao’s government and before China entered the war American aircraft bombed that country while carrying out air missions in northern Korea. Even more ominous, both MacArthur and (later) President Truman publicly discussed striking China with nuclear weapons.
UN troops pushed north even after the Chinese made it clear they would intervene to block a hostile force from approaching their border. Beijing was particularly worried about northern China’s dependence on energy from the Yalu River power station in northern Korea. From the Chinese perspective the People’s Liberation Army defended the country’s territorial integrity, which was compromised by US bombings and the control of Formosa (Taiwan) by foreign-backed forces.
Since the end of the fighting Canada has maintained a small number of troops in Korea. Three years ago a Canadian became the first non-US general to hold the post of deputy commander since the United Nations Command (UNC) was created to fight the Korean War in 1950. Washington is pushing to “revitalize” UNC, which is led by a US General who simultaneously commands the 27,000 US troops in Korea. According to the Financial Times, the UN force “serves to bolster and enhance the US’s position in north-east Asia at a time when China is rising.”
As Washington has turned its focus to countering Chinese power in Asia over the past decade Ottawa has ramped up its belligerence. 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.”
In recent years Canadian vessels have repeatedly been involved in belligerent “freedom of navigation” exercises through international waters that Beijing claims in the South China Sea, Strait of Taiwan and East China Sea. To “counter China’s” growing influence in Asia, Washington has sought to stoke longstanding territorial and maritime boundary disputes between China and the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and other nations. As part of efforts to rally regional opposition to China, the US Navy engages in regular “freedom of navigation” operations, which see warships travel through or near disputed waters.
At its most extreme, the anti-Chinese campaign reflects a worldview that longs for a divided and imperially dominated country like before 1949. But, the militarist/xenophobic/pro-US forces in Canada have to contend with China’s rising economic power and elements of the capitalist class who see conflict with this huge market as self-defeating and an obstacle to profit-making. Corporate Canada and elements of the Global Affairs bureaucracy generally prefer greater ties with Beijing while militarist/xenophobic/pro-US forces seek conflict.
People who believe in a peaceful, rules-based international order that does not reward imperial bullying, have many reasons to oppose militaristic xenophobes. While leftists should challenge capitalism, in this situation much of the corporate class are taking a more progressive position than the so-called “security” establishment.
In recent weeks movements in different countries have toppled statues and put the police and other institutions upholding systemic racism on the defensive. But, amidst unprecedented protests against racism, there has been remarkably little interest in the white supremacist foreign policy alliance currently driving conflict with China. The “Five Eyes” intelligence arrangement has faced almost no criticism for propelling the Canada-China hostage standoff.
The seven-decade old Five Eyes — Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Australia and US — alliance has been central to Washington’s anti-China push. To counter China the component countries recently announced plans to coordinate the production of strategic goods and collectively denounced Beijing’s policy in Hong Kong. More significantly, they’ve sought to weaken the “Crown Jewel of China Inc.” Canada’s December 2018 arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was part of the alliance’s campaign to curtail the rise of the world’s largest 5G network provider. Five months before Meng’s arrest at the Vancouver airport, reported a Wall Street Journal story titled “At Gathering of Spy Chiefs, U.S., Allies Agreed to Contain Huawei”, Five Eyes officials agreed in Ottawa to contain the company’s global growth. Washington claimed that country’s first global technological powerhouse posed a security risk. But, driving the campaign was a bid to halt China’s ascendance in this critical industrial sector.
Of course, the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Canada intelligence agencies also worried about a firm less willing to follow their directives. In fact, the Five Eyes sought what they accused Huawei/China of. In September 2018 the intelligence alliance requested communication providers build “back doors” in their systems, allowing the Five Eyes espionage agencies access to communications. The Australian government actually published a statement, which was later removed, stating that “technical, legislative, coercive or other measures” should be considered to implement these “back doors”. The campaign to paint Huawei as a privacy violator was the racist pot calling the kettle black.
The Five Eyes partnership oozes of white supremacy. Settler colonialism and empire unite an 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 (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US) that originally voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 are part of the Five Eyes.
While claiming to be anti-racist, the Liberals promoted what John Price called “a race-based spy network”. Their 2017 defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged noted, “building on our shared values and long history of operational cooperation, the Five-Eyes network of partners, including Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, is central to protecting Canada’s interests and contributes directly to operational success.” In a rare move, the next year prime minister Justin Trudeau revealed a meeting with his Five Eyes counterparts. After the April 2018 meeting in London, Trudeau labelled the 2,000-employee Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s main contributor to the Five Eyes arrangement, “an extraordinary institution.” Alongside praise, the government expanded CSE’s powers and funding.
Last week Five Eyes defence ministers held two days of video meetings. Despite unprecedented public opposition to racism and significant attention focused on the hostage conflict with China, there’s been little criticism of the Five Eyes and its actions.
It’s time Canadians debate whether they want to be part of an alliance of settler colonial states’ intelligence agencies promoting conflict with China.
Overcoming structural racism should not be limited to what goes on inside Canada. We must confront racism wherever it is found, including in our international alliances.