Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before the committee. It will be my pleasure to answer questions in both official languages, but I will make my presentation in English.
I think China poses the greatest threats to Canadian western foreign policy in decades. You can see its military strength and how it compensates for some of its weaknesses there, with its economic weight and its global ambitions. I think the basic line here is that Canadians need to start seeing the world for what it is rather than what we would like it to be. It is a highly competitive, highly contested world of geopolitical conflict, of permanent conflict below the threshold of conventional war or nuclear attack. What we see here is just part of this broad spectrum wherein we're being pressed hard on many fronts. This has been the case since 2008.
I think the relationship with China is best described as “competitive interdependence”. Alaska is a good example. We had an hour of grandstanding on both sides, and then we had eight hours of strategic dialogue on key issues of common interest. We need to understand that while there are many issues in terms of competitive interdependence in which we are fundamentally interlinked—economically, for instance—there are also many issues and interests on which we have fundamentally irreconcilable differences. I think the takeaway is that Canada can't impose its will on China, but Canada also must not accept a subordinate role in that relationship. We have to get ready for long-term, systemic competition.
The competition is fundamentally about how we unlock the potential of our people and how we achieve our national ambitions. This is ultimately more about competition than about confrontation per se. Sometimes you just need to co-operate with your competitors. This is not a monochromatic relationship, and this is why, I think, we're here tonight. To the committee's credit, you're wrestling with this extremely challenging and complex relationship in which we also have inescapable interdependence on everything from knowledge economies to issues such as Iran and North Korea.
What can Canada do? We need to realize what we can and can’t do. We won’t decide China’s regime type, and we can’t determine the size of China’s economy. We can, for instance, realize that the four attributes—which I can't go into for reasons of time—in the formula that has gotten China to this point over the last 40 years no longer apply. What lies ahead is not going to be a linear trajectory of the kind we've seen in the past. China's judgment here is that it is no longer in a stable relationship with the U.S., so it needs to strengthen itself for strategic competition. I think Canada needs to do likewise. It needs to fortify itself with its friends.
One of the things we need to do is to counter the Chinese narrative that the east is rising and the west is in decline. Chinese media are great purveyors of narratives, and authoritarian systems always excel at showcasing their strengths and concealing their weaknesses. We need to learn to distinguish between image and reality and not inadvertently buy in. Let's have some self-confidence. Let's not inflate the threat or weaponize it for political purposes.
Let's also realize that China is not 10 feet tall, that alarmism doesn't help us here, and that China has lots of vulnerabilities. Canada is much better positioned than China to meet the challenges of the 21st century in terms of per capita GDP, energy and food security, demographics, education, social harmony, immigration, allocation of capital, transparent geopolitical systems and so forth.
Instead of focusing on how we can degrade China's strengths, we need to focus on how we can bolster our own. By doing that, it's going to be easier to unite our allies. The key aspect about influence is that we need to make the choices. We need to choose the issues that are important to us and on which we want to make a difference. On those issues, we need to shrink the gap with our allies. We need to boost our domestic dynamism and we need to capitalize on our global network and our alliances and partnerships.
In the previous session, there were many mentions of the Five Eyes. Of course, the Five Eyes is no longer just a signals intelligence community. There are law enforcement components, border components, human intelligence components and financial intelligence components. There's a lot that we are doing and a lot more that can be done. We need to shore up our global prestige, because that's something that China doesn't control. It's something that we control.
We need to ask ourselves questions. What is of national interest to Canada? Pick the example, for instance, of Xinjiang, or pick any other case studies. We need to lead by example. We need to speak out clearly and consistently. We need to make it clear to China that there is not going to be a normal relationship as long as that long shadow is cast over the relationship. We need to be attentive to the goods and items that are being produced with forced labour, as has already been pointed out.
We need to—