The relationship between Canada and China is at its worst point since the Tiananmen Square massacre — and there’s no sign of improvement, one expert says.
In an interview with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Paul Evans, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, pointed to the 1989 massacre when Chinese troops fired on protesters, killing between several hundred and thousands.
Another roughly 10,000 were arrested for taking part in the uprising.
Evans said the current dispute between Canada and China in the midst of a U.S-China trade war is escalating along with tensions.
“I think it’s certainly the worst since Tiananmen Square and there are other signs that this is kind of the hardest moment in bilateral diplomatic relations since we established diplomatic relations in 1970,” he said.
“We’re in the midst of a hail storm and there are some signs that it is not slowing up and that this could be a season of some further escalations on both sides.”
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U.S President Donald Trump has launched a trade war against Beijing in a bid to restrain the country’s economic interests and its rising challenge to U.S power.
At the same time, American officials charged Huawei, the Chinese technology firm, and its CFO Meng Wanzhou with 23 charges in January 2019 for allegedly skirting U.S. sanctions on Iran and stealing trade secrets from American companies.
Meng was detained in Vancouver by Canadian border officials in December 2018 at the request of the Americans.
And as a result, Liberal MP Mark Eyking told Global News last week that Canada has been paying the price for that assistance.
Eyking, chair of the House of Commons international trade committee, was in Washington last week ahead of high-stakes U.S.-China trade talks and said several American legislators had agreed to raise the issue of the “hit” Canada is taking during high-stakes trade talks between the U.S. and China late last week.
In recent months, China has detained two Canadians on what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls “arbitrary” and “illegal” grounds.
China has also banned pork and canola imports from Canada, and Evans said more hits are likely to come.
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“There’d be tourism, education exchanges, that kind of thing,” he said when asked which sectors China could restrict next.
“If the United States and China cannot reach an agreement soon this has consequences for Canadian exports.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling on Trudeau to yank billions in investment from the Asian Infrastructure Bank run by China, file a trade challenge at the World Trade Organization, and immediately appoint a new ambassador.
The former ambassador, John McCallum, was fired for weighing in on Meng’s extradition case to the media.
But Evans says Scheer’s approach is “pretty close to a call for a Cold War with China.”
“I’m afraid there are elements of it,” he said. “It’s not a Cold War like the Cold War we knew with the Soviet Union because of the interaction of the economies, but in terms of it being framed as a battle of social systems — our system versus theirs, different history, different traditions, different institution — it has elements of that Cold War.”
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Unlike the last Cold War though, freezing out China might be easier said than done.