It should tell you something about just how deeply the rot has spread that the Liberal Party of Canada was well represented at the Chinese Communist Party’s three-day “dialogue with world political parties” that was wrapping up just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was arriving in Beijing on Sunday, and that among the 300 delegates who lauded Xi Jinping’s regime “as the core in pushing forward the building of a community of a shared future for mankind and of a better world” was none other than Jean Chretien. The former Liberal prime minister is nowadays employed by Denton’s Canada LLP, the ugly little stepsister of the global conglomerate Beijing Dacheng.
It should also tell you something about just how run-of-the-mill these kinds of obscenities have become that barely a whisper has been heard in the House of Commons following last week’s revelations about the generosity the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department and its related overseas influence-peddling agencies have been lavishing upon Canadian politicians.
Along with pro-Beijing lobby groups headquartered in Canada, the Chinese Communist Party’s “soft power” brokers have picked up the costs of dozens of getting-to-know-you trips to China over the years for several Liberal and Conservative MPs and senators. All by himself, John McCallum, the cabinet minister Trudeau appointed ambassador to China last year, racked up freebie trips to the value of $73,300.
But what the hell. A drop in the bucket. Xi Jinping’s increasingly imperialistic regime spends an estimated $18 billion a year on subversion and overseas propaganda, which in its Canadian content is now practically indistinguishable from the boilerplate produced by the Office of the Minister of International Trade and the Canada-China Business Council.
We are all supposed to be somehow impressed, for instance, or at least surprised, that Trudeau’s purportedly principled insistence on gender, labour and environmental provisions in a free trade agreement with China was the cause of some hullabaloo in Beijing this week. It’s a handy storyline. Even Trudeau’s noisiest critics will settle for it. What a dolt! Dolt or not, the proposition that it’s a big deal falls apart on the fiction that there is some important distinction to be drawn between proceeding with “preliminary negotiations” as expected, and advancing to “high level exchanges” on free trade instead.
Never mind for the moment that “free trade” isn’t even possible with a police state, let alone the sort that has lately rededicated itself with relish to the thuggery necessary to the enforcement of a command-and-control economy – which Xi Jinping has explicitly articulated as a matter of fundamental state policy. Trudeau can at least be confident that he can persist in his cringe-inducing infatuation with the Chinese regime, and that Beijing will continue to return the compliment with the flattery that he obsessively craves.
But Trudeau’s advisors know full well that they can’t be quite so sanguine. You never can tell when public disgust will reach a tipping point. So a bit of high drama comes in handy. High comedy, too, however unintentional.
One is left to wonder what sort of gender-parity provisions Canada would put on the table in talks with a despotism overseen by a standing committee to which no woman has ever belonged, which is nominally “elected” by a 25-member politburo with only two women at the table, overseeing a 376-member party central committee that has permitted only 33 women in its ranks.
Okay, “the environment,” then. While Canada lathers on the praise for Beijing’s alleged commitment to the Paris Accord on global warming, China has no obligation to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions under the accord until 2030. The shelved plans for those 500 new Chinese coal plants, then? China is opening that many coal mines overseas, mostly in Africa.
Labour standards? All China has to do is ratify and implement longstanding international standards set by the International Labour Organization – which Beijing refuses to do, because the ILO rules prohibit forced labour and discrimination against migratory workers, and the rules insist on collective bargaining rights and the rights of workers to independent unions, which Beijing will not tolerate.
No “free trade” deal with Canada will change any of this, and while this week’s theatrics in Beijing were all very gripping, one would have to be stone deaf to irony and wholly blind to Trudeau’s hypocrisy to be impressed.
Before he jetted off last weekend, this was a key pretext in Trudeau’s pre-boarding announcement: “A closer relationship also means more opportunity to hold regular, frank dialogue on human rights issues like good governance, freedom of speech, and the rule of law.”
Hold the laughter about human rights and good governance and the rule of law for a moment. Freedom of speech? Seriously? Trudeau’s first big gig in Beijing was to play the marquee celebrity-endorsement role at a huge marketing and publicity event hosted by Sina, the parent company of Weibo, China’s vigorously state-patrolled social media platform. Here’s the promotional blurb: “Why would this great leader, famous for his good looks and youth, choose to visit Sina first?”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Singh Bains as they meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.
Good question. Why would the prime minister of a liberal democracy serve as a branding and public-relations gimmick for a mammoth communications corporation controlled by an executive Communist Party committee that employs more than 1,000 people just to spy on citizens and monitor their messages for banned ideas so that dissenters can be more efficiently reported to the authorities?
It is commonplace to describe Weibo as a micro-blogging platform that is more popular than Twitter. It is, but that’s at least partly because Twitter is blocked in China, along with the social media sites Facebook, Google, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr and Periscope. The news media sites blocked in China – not least the New York Times, Bloomberg, Le Monde and the Economist – are just as numerous.
So much for free speech, then. As for the possibility of free trade with China, it’s a propaganda fiction, and we would all do well to call it what it is.
Now that Xi Jinping has consolidated his stranglehold on power following the recent 19th Party Congress, there is no turning back. Article 19 of the Company Law of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that all companies doing business in the country must incorporate a party committee into its management structure. In the case of joint ventures, the party is now demanding that the company’s party secretary be the board chairman. By the Chinese regime’s own calculations, nearly three-quarters of the 100,000-plus foreign-invested companies in China already have the tumour of a party committee thriving inside them.
Does any of this matter to Canada?
It does when you look at what Canadians are getting in return, and for a glimpse of that, it’s worth noticing that China’s ruling princelings have already secured a shadowy free trade zone for themselves in Metro Vancouver real estate. Last month, the International Housing Affordability Study identified Vancouver as the least-affordable city in North America, while the corruption watchdog Transparency International reports that Vancouver has emerged as a major transnational money-laundering hub.
Dirty money is pouring through Metro Vancouver casinos, and the region’s housing stock is increasingly owned by shell companies, trusts, anonymous beneficiaries, or nominees who list their occupation as “housewife” or “student.” It’s gotten to the point that B.C. Attorney General David Eby reckons there is simply no relationship between house prices in Metro Vancouver and taxable income reported to Revenue Canada “until you get out to the distant suburbs.”
Since the return of the Liberal Party to power in October 2015, Ottawa and Beijing have signed at least 50 “important bilateral collaborations,” to borrow the Chinese Communist Party’s terminology. The collusion includes national security files, military exchanges, education, consular affairs, and “cybercrime.”
It’s one little capitulation after another.