Thursday, January 14, 2016

Terry Glavin: The Liberals, in their rush to embrace Beijing’s thugs, prefer to gloss over some inconvenient truths

Terry Glavin: The Liberals, in their rush to embrace Beijing’s thugs, prefer to gloss over some inconvenient truths


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Haircut'Boy is on the left
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey on Nov. 16, 2015.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean KilpatrickPrime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey on Nov. 16, 2015.
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s fresh young Team Canada recruits go about the business of entrenching the decrepit Liberal party establishment’s mishmash of cynical and starry-eyed obsequies to Beijing as the new government’s signature foreign policy and international trade strategy, the least the rest of us should expect is that we not be taken for fools and treated like idiots.
It’s all so comical, and the propaganda attending to the initiative has been so transparently lame, that it almost isn’t worth getting worked up about. Except for certain details. The proposition of a full-blown free trade deal with the Beijing regime wasn’t something Trudeau let us in on during the recent election campaign, for instance. But that would appear to be the end game now.
There’s also the unseemly business of Beijing’s cyberhacking of Canadian government agencies, its subversion of international institutions, its rapidly escalating military belligerence in the South China Sea and its vandalism of global currency markets. All these indecencies have been undertaken with relish by Xi Jinping, the most tyrannical and reactionary Chinese dictator since Mao Zedong.
That’s before we even start taking into account Beijing’s notorious cooking of its economic books. China’s economy may well be at the cusp of a total meltdown — something good sense would want Canada insulated from, not more dangerously exposed to. Beijing’s foreign exchange reserves lost $108 billion in value last month, capping a year that saw $513 billion drained from its $3.3 trillion piggy bank. The party is clearly over. Capital is flooding out of the country. But getting an unfiltered look at China’s real-world economic performance data is not something Xi and his cronies will allow.
The regime has lately escalated its brutal persecution of trade unionists, human rights activists and journalists. Xi has ordered a full-on redoubling of the state’s insidious surveillance and censorship machinery. Last September, following China’s “Black Monday” stock market crash, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department issued a directive instructing Chinese journalists to devote themselves to “strengthening economic propaganda and guiding public opinion” and promoting “the discourse on China’s bright economic future and the superiority of China’s system.”
News organizations were instructed to delete articles referring to Black Monday. Nearly 200 journalists were rounded up and taken into custody for interrogation. Last month, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that China had again topped the list among the world’s jailers of journalists, with 49 reporters and editors behind bars. The CPJ report included the caveat that its numbers were “still likely only a fraction of the total number of Chinese citizens imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression.”
It is becoming commonplace in Canada to be admonished, when pointing these things out, that to do so is to be somehow inappropriately disrespectful of the “Chinese” way of doing things (as though Chinese people were genetically undeserving of the solemn promises contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and we Westerners aren’t exactly unblemished in these matters, after all.
Fine, then. Let’s look at ourselves for a moment.
In the lead-up to Trudeau’s big speech at next week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, his ministers have been permitted to be coyly evasive about the free trade deal that the Liberal old guard and Trudeau’s China advisors have long openly counselled.
Instead of public candour, there have been cozy chats between conveniently unnamed members of Trudeau’s inner circle and friendly national media personalities about what a lovely arrangement a Canada-China free trade deal would be. Unabated by any constraints arising from the duty of solidarity Canadian journalists owe their Chinese colleagues, and unburdened by either the duty of “transparency” or the sunny-ways sanctity of “Canadian values” that the new Liberal government claims to champion, Canada’s financial press has provided the Canada-China Business Council with its customary fawning stenography.
Just how stupid do these people think we are, anyway?
The dynastic Liberal Desmarais family has been “consulted,” of course. The Canada China Business Council’s (CCBC) Peter Harder, after having managed the Trudeau team’s “transition” into the Prime Minister’s Office, is readily at hand for background briefings. On the national television networks, chummy banter substitutes for serious interviews with Beijing’s telegenic Canadian think-tank sycophants, all of whom express boundless admiration for the Trudeau government’s invigorating enthusiasm for Chinese business opportunities.
There are any number of troubling questions raised by all this, but this one stands out above all the others: just how stupid do these people think we are, anyway?
In a pre-Davos propaganda effort to enumerate the virtues of a Canada-China free trade deal, the CCBC selectively provided a sneak peek of a study it commissioned jointly with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
Here are some of its highlights: a free-trade deal could boost Canada’s China-bound exports by $7.7 billion and add 25,000 jobs to the Canadian economy by 2030, and could further match the three-per-cent tariff advantage over Canadian commodities that Australia recently secured in its trade deal with China. Coal was specifically mentioned.
Fair enough. But wait a minute. Coal? Last year, China boosted its new coal power plant capacity by more than 50 per cent, and Beijing approved 155 new coal-fired power plants, and now China is building coal plants for export. So much for the Paris climate agreement. I guess it’s not climate change if Canadian coal gets burned in China or someplace else.
Some more perspective: it sounds great, 25,000 new jobs by 2030. But Canada routinely gains or loses that number of jobs on a monthly basis. Canada’s total exports into global markets reached a record high of $528.8 billion in 2014, the last year with fully available figures. A mere $18.8 billion of those exports went to China.
A boost of $7.7 billion 15 years from now wouldn’t even put a dent into our trade deficit with China, which exported $58.8 billion worth of stuff into Canada in 2014. And much of that stuff is produced by the sweatshop labour of roughly one-sixth of humanity.
The China Labor Bulletin, based in Hong Kong, reported last month that 2015 ended with 2,774 wildcat strikes and other types of labour conflicts through the year, twice the extent of unrest over 2014, and all in defiance of the officially-recognized All-China Federation of Trade Unions — an outfit of the sort formerly known in Canadian trade union circles as a “yellow dog” union.
Meanwhile, five employees of Hong Kong’s Mighty Current Media, which specializes in fiercely critical books about China’s Communist Party apparatchiks, have gone missing, believed to have been “disappeared” by Beijing’s secret police. Last week, Peter Dahlin, the Swedish co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Group (CUAG), was arrested in Beijing, and embassy officials have been denied access to him.
The CUAG specializes in providing support to Chinese human rights lawyers. Amnesty International reckons that more than 240 lawyers and activists have been detained or questioned over the past two years. At least 30 are still missing or are in custody. Earlier this week, several of them were formally charged with offences involving “subversion.”
If that’s the kind of regime that Trudeau’s shiny new Liberals want to embrace in a free trade agreement, then fine, let’s have this conversation. But a little less of the sanctimonious hogwash about sunny ways, and a hell of a lot less of the cheap propaganda, please.
National Post