Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Special Committee on the Canada-People's Republic of China Relationship.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before you. My presentation will be mainly in English, but I will be happy to answer questions in French.
Let me start first with the China of Xi Jinping.
As you know, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is ongoing. While we know that Xi Jinping will get a third mandate as secretary general of the party, the only suspense is whether he will have to compromise with other factions in the makeup of the standing committee of the politburo. Also, will he get a new title, chairman or leader of the people, which would give him status similar to that of Mao Zedong?
Based on his speech at the opening of the session, we know he is not changing course, as his goal remains to make China the greatest superpower by 2049. He warned CCP members to be ready to “withstand high winds, choppy waters and even dangerous storms”. He stressed also the need to tell the China story, to promote China's narrative, to present a China that is credible and respectable, and to better show China's culture to the world.
We also have to recognize that China has become much more influential in international organizations, where it is trying to control the debate, change the norms to its advantage and avoid criticism of its practices and policies. Most recently, this happened at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where China and its supporters managed to prevent a debate on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Bachelet, on the situation in Xinjiang.
Let me now turn to the bilateral relationship. Despite the release of Meng Wanzhou and the two Michaels one year ago, our relationship with China is still very difficult, with almost no political dialogue. China keeps saying that Canada must learn from its mistakes. This illustrates how difficult it has become for all western countries to engage with Chinese diplomats, as they reject any criticism and they follow the instruction of Xi Jinping to push back.
The good news is that China has agreed to the nomination of Jennifer May as Canada's new ambassador to China. Mrs. May is a career diplomat who will do well in Beijing because of her relevant prior experience and her competencies, including in Mandarin, and I wish her the best of luck.
Ottawa has been struggling with how to deal with China. We were first promised, a few years back, a revised engagement strategy with China by Minister Champagne, but the process got derailed. It then morphed into an Indo-Pacific strategy that Minister Joly has been working on for a year now. We learned recently that, after all, it won't be unveiled before the Prime Minister goes to the APEC summit next month, so that's another delay.... This is puzzling, to say the least.
While Ottawa is faced with the challenge of dealing with a bully that does not respect international law, it must still find ways to deal with it and push back when its values and interests are threatened. This should normally lead to an engagement strategy that is much more strategic and limited to areas where it is in our interest to pursue co-operation with China, assuming, of course, that it wants to entertain a more limited relationship.
For example, on the environment, Canada has already a reputable record of providing assistance. We could provide China with clean technologies, liquefied natural gas and green or blue hydrogen to help China reduce its coal addiction. On public health and pandemics, Canada should continue to collaborate with China, especially to ensure it doesn't cut corners. Nuclear proliferation is another area that requires more discussion.
It's also crucial that Canada work closely with its allies to develop common strategies to oppose China's abhorrent behaviour. One way to do this would be to strengthen the multilateral system and ensure that UN organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, play their part and can be used to counter China.
In this respect, I was very encouraged by last week's speech by Minister Freeland before the Brookings Institution in Washington, where she emphasized the need to reduce our vulnerability to totalitarian regimes, both in trade and politically.