The Chinese government has now delivered what the kids today would call a “sick burn” against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The words uttered on Wednesday by China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang come after Trudeau and Freeland have insisted that U.S. President Donald Trump has backed up Canada over the issue of the two detained Canadians and also that they’ve rallied other countries to their side in the ongoing spat with Beijing and have people in their corner.
Not so fast, says China.
“We hope that the Canadian side will not be too naive,” said Geng Shuang. “First, Canada shouldn’t naively think that gathering so-called allies to put pressure on China will work. Second, the Canadian side should not naively believe that its so-called allies can really make concrete efforts for Canada’s interests. What they are doing at most is lip service, because after all it is a matter between China and Canada.”
This is China laughing in our faces — telling us that we don’t have as many friends as we think and that even when our “so-called allies” do step forward to lobby our cause, they’re only doing it half-heartedly.
You can even picture Trump getting to the end of a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and saying, after he’s already stood up to leave, something like: “Oh right, I almost forgot. So Justin from Canada wanted me to bring this up…”
There’s something more worrisome about that statement though than just the basic fact that China is now at the point in these escalating tensions where they feel confident laughing at us. It’s the way they dismiss this whole notion of gathering allies together to press for an outcome. By doing this, they’re laughing at our whole way of viewing global affairs.
Freeland speaks a lot about the “rules-based international order” — this is the idea that international standards are governed by Western norms of democracy, freedom of speech, judicial independence and so on.
China doesn’t care for these things. Not because they’re ignorant of them. And not because we haven’t done enough in inviting them to join us in them. But because Xi Jinping knows what he stands for and where he wants to take his country — and the rest of the world. And guess what? The rules-based international order isn’t the direction the Chinese Communist Party is heading in.
The Geng Shuang statement isn’t just a rebuke of the current Liberal government, it’s a rebuke of our worldview. What then does Canada do now?
For more than six months, China has been ratcheting up the pressure against Canada. Whether it’s the detention of the two Michaels, the halting of canola and meat imports or their former ambassador’s claims that we’re all white supremacists and Western egotists, all of the action has been on China’s side. Meanwhile, Trudeau does nothing in response.
This latest insult comes just days after the G20 where Trudeau wasn’t able to secure a one-on-one meeting with Xi Jinping. They snub us on the weekend and mock us during the week. Some relationship.
There are two schools of thought right now in Canada about the problem: Those that do profitable business in China as well as those in the Liberal Party believe this is a hiccup to be overcome and then it’s back to normal. Then, there are the academics, ex-diplomats and other observers who say this is the beginning of a great reboot in our relationship with China — where we go back to the drawing board and make sure that whatever interactions we have with China are ones guided by Canadian values. And if that means lessening relations, so be it.
For either outcome to happen though, Trudeau’s going to have to do something. Anything.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer recently called on Trudeau to file a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization and withdraw our funds from the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank. So far, Trudeau seems to think that back-channel diplomacy is the key solution — and that is the one thing China has just laughingly ruled out.
Back in 2016, the Chinese gave Trudeau the nickname Little Potato. He took it as a fond label back then. Maybe it was. But now it looks like China, the world’s largest consumer of potatoes, is looking to boil and mash Canada’s PM.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019