Home / Business / Diane Francis: It’s time to play hardball with Chinese aggression

Diane Francis: It’s time to play hardball with Chinese aggression

How dare China snub the prime minister, and therefore the people of Canada, by refusing to meet with our officials until the government drops valid extradition proceedings against a Chinese telecom executive?

And how dare China incarcerate two Canadian citizens for months, then damage our economy by reneging on canola contracts, which were worth $2.7 billion last year?

How? Because it can and because China is a bully.

The prime minister has dithered for months since China began damaging our economy, but should consider the following actions:

Canada must continue to make clear it will not abrogate its extradition treaty obligations, and join forces with other victims of Chinese aggression, such as the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. What’s needed is an alliance: The four would agree that if one were unfairly attacked, the others would support one another’s trade complaints to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and, in extreme cases, undertake joint retaliatory measures.

So far, the government has dallied but asked the WTO to demand that China deliver evidence that Canadian canola is contaminated, and secured a meeting on June 20 with U.S. President Donald Trump. Similar summits should be arranged with Australia and New Zealand, both of which have banned Huawei (at the urging of the U.S.) and been damaged. Australian coal shipments have been delayed at major ports in China, and Beijing has unofficially urged tourists to boycott New Zealand.


Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei attends a panel discussion at the company headquarters in Shenzhen, China, June 17.

Aly Song / Reuters

Canada must ban Huawei, too. The telecom giant has been dogged for years over stealing trade secrets and dumping allegations, the Wall Street Journal said in an investigative piece last month.

Huawei has picked off one telecom firm after another, and only three others in the 5G business remain. In 2012, a former security adviser to Nortel alleged that Huawei hacked the firm for more than a decade and engaged in corporate espionage to undermine it prior to its collapse.

In 2014, Canada’s Imax Corp. won $7 million in a court decision against former employee and software engineer Gary Tsui, who the company claims stole its technology in 2009 and then sold it to a state-owned enterprise in China. Tsui denied the allegations and has remained outside the country, ignoring a detention order and court injunction.

Being a nice guy country doesn’t protect Canada against this lawless hegemon. Time to organize.

Reaching out to Trump is a good sign that Ottawa realizes it cannot fight or fend off China alone without risking further significant economic damage. But united, these four trade victims can create a great deal of damage to convince China to back off its predatory behaviour.

For example, hundreds of thousands of Chinese have student visas in these four countries (73,000 in Canada alone). A staged retaliatory action would include cutting back visas by 25 per cent each year in each country until abuses cease.

Billions in trade credits, loans and grants are handed out in these four countries to enhance trade with China. These must be chopped dramatically, then diverted to developing markets elsewhere. The same applies to arts and cultural exchanges.

Canada must ensure that China’s trade misconduct should be on the agenda at the upcoming G7 meeting in France in August because of its deleterious economic effects on the global economy.

Canada must also seek damages against China at the WTO, because there’s no evidence to support its canola attack.

And Canadian embassies should warn about the human rights dangers of doing business in China, as well as support Hong Kong in its recent rule of law battle against Beijing.

Being a nice guy country doesn’t protect Canada against this lawless hegemon. Time to organize.

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