Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,.
Thank you for inviting me to give my thoughts and answers to your questions on what is, I think, one of the most important foreign policy issues for Canada at this moment.
As you may know, my book, Claws of the Panda: Beijing's Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada, was published within a few days of the start of the Huawei affair.
I had conflicting reactions to the detention in Vancouver on December 2, 2018, on a United States Department of Justice request, of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, and all that happened in the following months. On the one hand, I felt some satisfaction that those events substantiated much of what I had written in the book. On the other hand, I was alarmed that those events substantiated much of what I had written in the book.
Indeed I thought then, and I still do, that the Huawei affair set out a much worse situation than the catalogue of intrusions into Canadian affairs by the Chinese Communist Party and the insouciant response of Canadian decision-makers that I had described.
The response from Beijing to the detention of Ms. Meng Wanzhou was far more brutal than even I anticipated. The kidnapping and torture of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor sent a clear message in itself that the CCP cares more about the security of one party aristocrat than it does about the entire spectrum of relations with Canada.
More than that, the denial of legitimate consular access to the two Michaels and their secret trials said that Beijing is prepared to ignore treaties it has signed in order to defend the honour of any high-profile official.
The CCP regime followed up its hostage-taking with economic sanctions on Canadian meat and grain products, and whether by coincidence or not, several senior Canadian figures with histories of close ties with Beijing began to advocate her release. At the same time, Beijing continued its ever-increasing campaign to cow the 1.5 million Canadians of ethnic Chinese heritage.
Several carefully documented reports have been published on how agents of Beijing, either from the Ministry of State Security or the CCP's main political warfare organization, the United Front Work Department, are intimidating and threatening Canadians whom the party considers a threat.
The United Front has also taken effective control of almost all Chinese language media in Canada, as it has in all other countries in the 50-million-strong ethnic Chinese diaspora. The United Front has worked to place Beijing supporters in the leadership of the multitude of Canadian Chinese social groups and organizations. It has been notable how many of those groups have published support for the crushing of the promised autonomy of Hong Kong, the abuses against the Uighurs and Kazakhs in Xinjiang and other Beijing projects, such as the plan to take over Taiwan.
A year ago the Huawei affair came to an end when Ms. Meng Wanzhou admitted to the U.S. charges against her—that she had made fraudulent claims to international banks—and the extradition request was dropped. She was released, and so were the two Michaels.
However, to my mind the lessons of this affair are stark. My central conclusion is that we cannot have normal trade, diplomatic or political relations with a regime whose first instinct, when there are problems, is to take hostages. What this affair exposed and underlined is that we share no civic, political, diplomatic, security or international values with the People's Republic of China. On most matters involved in a relationship between two nations, we have no basis for conversation with the Chinese Communist Party.
Imagine for a moment that the U.S. request had been for the detention of a business executive from one of the neighbouring Asian democracies, such as Japan, South Korea or Taiwan. There would have been frictions, to be sure, but there would not have been a total crisis and collapse in the relationship, because we share a host of values with those countries and that would have cushioned the momentary clash.
I have no doubt that we must reconstruct a working relationship with Beijing. The PRC is now the second-largest economy in the world, though it is facing headwinds at the moment. Under leader Xi Jinping, it seems bent on an imperialist course towards becoming a global superpower, if not “the” superpower.
However, my judgment is that we should keep that to a minimalist transactional relationship. The current regime in Beijing has shown us clearly that it is not a friend of Canada and never intends to be. We should not waste our time trying to reform the CCP, as we have done in the past with several expensive and futile projects, such as teaching the rule of law and jointly chairing a travelling human rights road show. These were doomed to fail, because Beijing has no intention of accepting their conclusions. Instead—