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By Yves Engler
Emmanuel Macron’s relatively measured stance on Taiwan should embarrass Canada’s New Democratic Party. Sinophobia in Canadian media has pushed the party to forgo objections to the threat of war and back Washington’s rhetoric in US-China tensions.
In a recent visit to Beijing, Emmanuel Macron said Europe should distance itself from US-Chinese tensions over Taiwan. Calling for Europe to avoid being drawn into “block-to-block logic” or becoming a US “vassal,” Macron asked an interviewer whether or not it’s “in our interest to accelerate on the subject of Taiwan?” Macron answered the rhetorical question himself, stating flatly, “No.” As he explained it, “The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and adapt to the American rhythm and a Chinese overreaction.”
At the same time as Macron was warning Europe against adopting Washington’s position on Taiwan, the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) foreign critic Heather McPherson was stoking tension over the island. McPherson was part of a parliamentary delegation to Taiwan, which followed last summer’s controversial trip by former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a recent visit to the United States by Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen. President Joe Biden has strongly implied that the White House supports Taiwanese separatism — indeed, he has said the US would go to war over Taiwan.
Prior to joining the Taipei-sponsored trip, McPherson told the Hill Times that the trip was designed to combat a common threat. “Taiwan has dealt with Chinese interference, and Chinese misinformation and disinformation campaigns for a very long time, and I think there are things that Canada can and should be learning from the Taiwanese.”
As part of setting the stage for the visit, the Special Committee on the Canada–People’s Republic of China Relationship, which McPherson vice chairs, released Canada and Taiwan: A Strong Relationship in Turbulent Times. The report stokes tension over Taiwan, which Beijing considers a province (the government in Taipei, however, also considers itself the government of all of China). Since the 1970s, the United States and Canada have adhered to “One China” policies, recognizing one country led by Beijing that includes Taiwan.
The parliamentary visit along with the Canada and Taiwan report chip away at the One China policy despite Beijing stating clearly that it won’t accept Taiwan declaring independence and will resort to force to secure it if necessary.
Maintaining the status quo over promoting Taiwanese separatism that could lead to war is not a particularly controversial position. But US planners face a dilemma. With China’s economy growing rapidly, time appears to be on Beijing’s side. Taiwan’s economic dependence on the mainland is growing, and so is China’s regional influence. On the other hand, US economic power in East Asia has steadily declined. Increasingly, Washington’s influence is dependent on its troop deployments and military alliances. From the perspective of hawks in Washington, if there’s going to be war, the sooner the better.
Last month two Canadian naval vessels were deployed to the region. In a rare move, they were deployed from the east coast, a change that is in accordance with a plan to increase the number of Canadian gunboats in the Asian region. According to the government’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, Canada will “augment its naval presence, including by increasing the number of frigates deployed on to the region where it will conduct forward naval presence operations.” The strategy paper, which was released four months ago, details the allocation of half a billion dollars to bolster Canada’s military and spy network in the region.
The Special Committee on the Canada–People’s Republic of China Relationship wants the Canadian military to devote more energy to targeting China.
In its own statements, the NDP has also backed militarizing the region. During the 2021 federal election campaign, party leader Jagmeet Singh said Canada should seek to join AUKUS, a nuclear-powered submarine initiative that is an obvious provocation to Beijing. Similarly, in a statement headlined “Indo-Pacific Strategy is a step forward; New Democrats will hold government accountable,” the party applauded a plan to deploy more Canadian vessels to the region to “take steps to counterbalance China’s disruptive power.”
Alongside supporting a militarized containment policy, the NDP has called for sanctions on Chinese officials and jumped on the recent media bandwagon that is panicking about how “China is interfering in Canadian politics.” The party pushed for a diplomatic boycott of the February 2022 Beijing Olympics, and Singh suggested Canadian athletes could be in danger if they participated. The party also pushed the Liberals to ban the world’s largest 5G network provider, Huawei, from building its cutting-edge broadband in Canada because it’s a Chinese firm.
McPherson is hawkish on China, so she is unlikely to be embarrassed by Macron’s comments. Nor is she likely to be challenged by Canadian media, which is increasingly exhibiting an anti-China tenor. A good example of Canadian media’s slide into unabashed Sinophobia is the National Post’s recent article titled “China wants to vassalize the West — Trudeau and Biden want to let it.” The liberal end of legacy media is only slightly less hawkish.
Recently CBC’s The National did an eight-minute clip headlined “On board a Canadian military surveillance plane.” The CBC’s David Common reported from a CP-140 Aurora aircraft training for a deployment to Japan, where it will spend a few months mostly spying on China. With dramatic music, the story focused on the thrill of the training required to deal with Chinese fighter jet interception as well as the aircraft’s intelligence gathering capacities. The clip glossed over the geopolitical dangers of the deployment and how the United States and Canada would react if Chinese spy planes flew near their air space.
In another indication of liberal media increasingly aligning its viewpoint with US hegemony, CBC journalist Evan Dyer attacked Macron for visiting China. In one of a series of disparaging tweets, the global affairs reporter claimed that “the whole trip had a weird vibe.” In another post about the French president’s visit, Dyer wrote “Macron’s ego and need to appear relevant again create havoc, as he tries to position France somewhere between the Western democratic alliance and the China-Russia alliance, and succeeds mainly in empowering Xi Jinping and undermining democratic Taiwan.” But Macron’s stated position better reflects most of the world’s nations, including democratic ones, then Washington’s.
Rather than push back against the media madness, the NDP has chosen to criticize the Liberals for being too soft on China. Amid this media climate, McPherson is likely to continue promoting the US neocon line unless there is some pushback from below.
More questions should be asked of Singh and McPherson. It is not too much to expect Canada’s social democratic party to follow the lead of the French president — of all people — and at least question if it is in this country’s and humanity’s self-interest to push ever closer to war with China.