April 12, 2024

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‘Should be easy’ for Ottawa to declare China a strategic rival: former ambassador – National

It “should be easy” for the Canadian federal government to identify China as a strategic rival in its Indo-Pacific strategy, the former Canadian ambassador to China told the Canada-China relations special committee on Tuesday.

Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from October 2012 to October 2016, said Canada has “learned a lot about China” in the past few years — from the detention of “the two Michaels” to how Beijing is using trade as a weapon.

“In my perspective, it should be easy for Ottawa to conclude that China has become a strategic rival competitor and that we have to align very closely with our friends and allies,” said Saint-Jacques.

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On Sept. 30, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said she will release Canada’s long-delayed Indo-Pacific strategy this year, adding that the strategy will be shaped by the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

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The meeting, which opened on Oct. 16, is a week-long meeting that will decide on China’s policies for the next five years. It is also expected to break with tradition and reappoint Xi as the party’s  general secretary for a third term.

Saint-Jacques said he believes it is clear that Xi “feels that he is on a mission” after listening to Xi’s speech on Sunday.

“He wants to change the norms and standards with international organizations,” said Saint-Jacques in his opening remarks to the committee.

“Based on his speech at the opening of this session, we know that he is not changing course as his goal remains to make China the greatest superpower by 2049. (Xi said) if you aren’t a CCP members, ‘to be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters and even dangerous storms.’”

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Canada and China’s relationship has been “difficult,” said Saint-Jacques.

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In late 2018, China detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou on fraud charges at the request of the U.S., angering Beijing. The two Michaels were released in September 2021 after Meng cut a deal with U.S. prosecutors and returned to China.

Following the arrest of Meng, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei, the Chinese government further blocked canola shipments from Canadian companies in March 2019. The ban was lifted earlier this year.

This past May, the Canadian government formally banned Huawei and fellow Chinese tech firm ZTE and their equipment from the country, citing concerns over potential threats to Canada’s national security.

Earlier this month, a group of Canadian MPs visited Taiwan in a move that also triggered China, which claimed the trip “blatantly violates the one-China principle” and “grossly interferes” with Beijing’s internal affairs.

— with files from the Associated Press and the Canadian Press

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