Madam Speaker, Canadians of Chinese descent are great contributors to Canada and are part of an ancient heritage and civilization that has contributed much to humanity. I have a thriving Chinese Canadian community at home, which has been very kind to me over the years.
As the shadow defence minister, it is my job to critique the government's defence policy and posture, with the goal of making national security more sound and stronger. This is very close to my heart as the former associate minister of national defence.
When I look at China as a strategic player on the global stage, I can visualize its progress over time from what westerners considered a backward, developing state to now a great power, a superpower on the rise. It is a non-status quo power, in that it has an interest in carving out a sphere of influence for itself, not just in the Indo-Pacific but also around the globe. In so doing, it brings itself into conflict with other great powers, like the United States. It is time for the Canadian government to take seriously the threats that the Beijing communist leadership poses to Canada's national interests and security, as well as our values.
On July 24, 2019, China published its first defence white paper in four years, “China's National Defence in the New Era”. The document outlines the strategic guidance for the People's Liberation Army. The white paper commences with a review of how China sees the global security environment. In China's view, there has been a redistribution of power in the international system, in that there is no one superpower anymore and this has led to a multipolar system. This trend toward multipolarity and the decline of the world's only superpower, the United States, has led to greater instability and strategic competition. The world is no longer “a tranquil place”.
Beijing views the United States as the biggest threat to international stability and security. The white paper warns about American “growing hegemonism, power politics, unilateralism”, but the document does not stop at examining the U.S. It also looks at U.S. allies and other significant states in the world. It notes that “NATO has continued its enlargement, stepped up military deployment in Central and Eastern Europe and conducted frequent military exercises.” As well, it notes that “Russia is strengthening its nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities for strategic containment and striving to safeguard its strategic security space and interests”. Furthermore, it points out that “[t]he European Union is accelerating its security and defense integration to be more independent in its own security”.
The document is transparent in its statement that the goal of Chinese defence policy is countering the U.S. and replacing it as the world's superpower. China singles out those states that it sees as U.S. allies and partners in disrupting the region, particularly South Korea, Japan and Australia. The document also singles out Australia for its military alliance with the U.S. and its military engagement in the Asia-Pacific region as “seeking a bigger role in security affairs”. Not surprisingly, the document claims that Chinese policy in the Asia-Pacific region has been a resounding success and suggests a China-led security architecture for the future. It seems that Beijing views the Asia-Pacific region in almost the same manner as imperial Japan did immediately before and during World War II.
The white paper asserts that the fundamental goal of national defence in this new era is to deter and resist aggression; safeguard national political security, the people's security and social stability; oppose and contain Taiwan independence; crack down on proponents of separatist movements, such as Tibet independence and the creation of East Turkestan; and safeguard national sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and security. Other strategic national security objectives include safeguarding China's maritime rights and interests and its security interests in outer space, electromagnetic space and cyberspace, as well as safeguarding China's overseas interests and supporting the sustainable development of the country.
The white paper notes that the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by China, are inalienable parts of the Chinese territory. It vows that Beijing will defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity via patrols in the waters near the disputed islands. Other states that claim parts of the South China Sea are told that the sea is also an inalienable part of China.
The white paper states:
China exercises its national sovereignty to build infrastructure and deploy necessary defensive capabilities on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea....
With regard to Taiwan, the document uses plain language not seen in previous defence white papers. It states that:
To solve the Taiwan question and achieve complete reunification of the country is in the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation and essential to realizing national rejuvenation. China adheres to the principles of “peaceful reunification”, and “one country, two systems”, promotes peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, and advances peaceful reunification....
This is what it says.
The linchpin of Beijing's political objectives is the People's Liberation Army. China has the world's largest military machine, with more than 2 million soldiers, which can be turned against an adversary like Taiwan at any time and with little warning. China continues to have organizational and doctrinal issues that undermine its effectiveness.
The People's Liberation Army has also not seen real combat since its border war with Vietnam in 1979 and skirmishes with India in the Himalayas. The People's Liberation Army, or PLA, has an increasingly modern military featuring strategic nuclear and conventional rockets and ground, sea and air forces.
In terms of the strategic nuclear deterrent, China has 100 rail-based ICBMs that may be targeted on the U.S. right now, and has developed two new fields of some 250 silos for its reportedly growing nuclear arsenal. It is important to note that the increase in the Chinese nuclear strategic deterrent tends to move away from its past minimalist approach to nuclear counterstrike, which it has reportedly had for decades. It suggests that Beijing is about to drop all pretenses of a no-first-use policy.
In August 2021, China reportedly tested at least one nuclear-capable HGV that was launched from a Long March 2C rocket and orbited the earth before it attacked its intended target. The HGV travels at an extremely high speed to its target: above Mach 5. It is manoeuvrable, unlike a ballistic warhead on a parabolic path, and it may strike its target with little or no warning almost anywhere on the globe.
Fractional orbital bombardment systems, FOBS, are designed to place nuclear warheads into a fractional orbit from the southern hemisphere where they would likely go undetected, instead of launching them by a ballistic missile over the North Pole. The advantage of FOBS is that they avoid the North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORAD's constellation of radar stations looks out into the Arctic space, and satellites are positioned to look at the northern hemisphere, rather than to look south. As well, the FOBS have no range limit, are incredibly fast and have no predictable path to give away their target.
The Communist Party of China has at its disposal an army of about 975,000 soldiers to defend Chinese interests, with enormous reserves potential and important paramilitary forces of around 660,000 soldiers. Beijing now has the world's largest navy, with 250,000 sailors and 355 warships that it can focus on the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The PLA navy has four modern amphibious dock vessels and two amphibious helicopter assault ships. The navy has two aircraft carriers, one cruiser, 32 destroyers, 49 frigates, and about 125 smaller corvettes and missile craft of various capabilities. It has a submarine force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile and hunter-killer boats along with many conventionally powered subs. The two operational aircraft carriers are of modest capability, with a larger third carrier under construction. However, the surface combatants are peers or near-peers to their western counterparts.
For Canada, it is important to remember that China is interested in our Arctic region and the riches there, as well as the prospect of a sheltered area where its nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs might hide during possible tensions with either the U.S. or Russia. Chinese state media have reportedly called the Northwest Passage a golden waterway for future trade. To Denmark's concern, Beijing has expressed an interest in Greenland.
In conclusion, Canada ignores China's growing global interests and its military might at our peril. We have to step up, join our allies in Quad and AUKUS and vote for this committee to reconvene and do some very good work.