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Canada FM warns businesses against deepening China ties

By Rob Gillies - AP

November 9, 2022

TORONTO — Canada’s foreign minister said Wednesday that China is an increasingly disruptive, global power and warned businesses against deepening their ties, saying there were “geopolitical risks.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly made the remarks at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto ahead of her government introducing a Indo-Pacific strategy next month.

“The China of 1970 is not the China of today. China is an increasingly disruptive, global power,” Joly said. “It seeks to shape the global environment into one that is more permissive for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours.”

Joly said Canada has serious concerns about Beijing undermining global security, commerce and peace. Part of that includes “credible accounts of human rights abuse and crimes against humanity” in the Xinjiang region against the Muslim minority known as the Uyghur.

“What I would like to say to Canadians doing business in and with China: You need to be clear-eyed. The decisions you take as businesspeople are your own. As Canada’s top diplomat, my job is to tell you that there are geopolitical risks linked to doing business with the country,” Joly said.

Joly said Canada will deepen economic ties with Taiwan and continue to stand up for freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Hong Kong. She said Canada will challenge China when it ought to and cooperate when it must.

The remarks represent a pivot for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, who have generally tried to avoid inflaming tensions with Beijing.

China previously embraced Trudeau in part because of his father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who in 1970 became one of the first Western leaders to establish diplomatic relations with Communist China.

China has taken an increasingly hard line in foreign relations, and ties with Canada nosedived after China, the U.S. and Canada completed what was effectively a high-stakes prisoner swap last year involving a top executive from Chinese tech giant Huawei who had been charged with fraud by the U.S.

China jailed two Canadians shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, on a U.S. extradition request. They were sent back to Canada in September, the same day Meng returned to China after reaching a deal with U.S. authorities in her case.

Many countries labeled China’s action “hostage politics,” while China has described the charges against Huawei and Meng as a politically motivated attempt to hold back China’s economic and technological development.

Canada has banned wireless carriers from installing Huawei equipment in its high-speed 5G networks, joining allies in shunning the company that has close links with the ruling Communist Party and its military wing, the People’s Liberation Army.

Canada has also ordered three Chinese companies to sell lithium mining assets in Canada after it imposed limits on foreign involvement in supplying “critical minerals” used in batteries and high-tech products.

Former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, called new the strategy a major shift and said Beijing will not be pleased. He said Washington will be.

“China will say it’s a confirmation that Canada is the lap dog of the Americans but my answer would be you didn’t leave us any choice,” Saint-Jacques said.

Saint-Jacques said it took awhile for the Trudeau government to see China for what it is now.

“Justin Trudeau was living with the legacy of his father,” he said. “But after we opened diplomatic relations with China we invested in good faith in the relationship. We thought as China opened up it would open up with freedom of expression and basic human rights, but since Xi Jinping came to power 10 years ago China has become a very authoritarian regime.”


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