'A self-centred giant baby': How China is bashing Canada
There was once a time when the official stance of the People’s Republic of China towards Canada was indifference spiced with the occasional Norman Bethune reference. Those days are now firmly over: Under the rule of Xi Jinping, China has adopted an openly aggressive stance towards the Maple Leaf, a position represented most notably by the imprisonment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
This rising hostility has led to a notable tone-shift in how Chinese state media and Beijing’s official spokespeople refer to Canada. A sampling is below.
“How hypocritical and despicable!”
The PRC has lashed out harshly at anyone who has criticized ongoing human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province, where Muslim Uyghurs are being sterilized and corralled into re-education camps under the guise of “anti-terrorism.” While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has waffled on calling the actions “genocide,” on Feb. 22 nearly all of the House of Commons (except for Trudeau and his cabinet) backed a non-binding resolution stating that “a genocide is currently being carried out by the People’s Republic of China against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.” Numerous Chinese diplomatic responses listed Canadian treatment of Indigenous peoples as evidence of Ottawa’s “hypocrisy” on the issue. “The Canadian side should ask itself when it comes to committing “genocide” and reflect deeply on the miserable experience of its indigenous people,” read a lengthy statement from China’s embassy in Canada. In a Tweet by foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, Canada’s system of Indigenous residential schools was listed alongside the Holocaust as reasons why Western countries have “absolutely no right to criticize China.” Hua also Tweeted the claim that one in three children sent to Canadian residential schools were killed, a rate that would make them deadlier than most Soviet gulags.
“Axis of white supremacy”
Amid the flood of official Chinese outrage at Canada’s Feb. 22 resolution was also this dedicated editorial in Global Times, an English-language tabloid put out by People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. In it, the Five Eyes — the intelligence-sharing alliance of the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, Australia and Canada — are branded an “axis of white supremacy” beholden to neo-Nazi interests. “They have formed a US-centered, racist, and mafia-styled community, willfully and arrogantly provoking China and trying to consolidate their hegemony as all gangsters do,” it wrote, taking particular issue with the resolution’s call for Canada to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. In August, an editorial in China Daily also took up the theme of Canada as a bastion of anti-Asian racism. “Chinese Canadians are still a disadvantaged minority group in Canada and face the rising risk of becoming scapegoats for Canada’s domestic problems and victims of systemic racism,” it wrote.
“Boy, your greatest achievement is to have ruined the friendly relations between China and Canada”
The above quote comes courtesy of Li Yang, head of China’s consulate in Rio di Janeiro. It refers to Justin Trudeau, whom Yang also brands as a “spendthrift” who turned Canada into a “running dog” of the U.S. Yang is one of the louder standard-bearers of Beijing’s rising nationalist tone. In May, after a Brazilian lawmaker referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” Yang lambasted him in a lengthy editorial that declared “should any country insist on being China’s enemy, we will be its most sophisticated enemy!” As pointed out by Foreign Policy, this kind of saber-rattling from a Beijing representative was “unthinkable” only a few years ago. Cong Peiwu, China’s ambassador to Canada, has not been quite as provocative, but his statements on the Meng Wanzhou affair have carried a whiff of intimidation. In December, he wrote an editorial saying that Canada should “carefully think” about its next steps, while a more recent statement warned “those playing with fire will end up burning themselves badly.”
“Canada [will] ‘eat the bitter fruit’ of soured bilateral ties”
October 13th marked the 50th anniversary of Canada establishing diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China. While the occasion was largely overlooked here, in Chinese state media it became an opportunity to lecture Canadians on the consequences of breaking faith with a rising China. “In the past 50 years, China-Canada ties have undergone a positive momentum … however, after Meng’s arrest in 2018, ties were severely hurt,” read a story in Global Times which ended with the disclaimer that “without properly handling Meng’s case, all forms of exchanges would be hurt.” Liu Dan, a research fellow with the Centre for Canadian Studies in Guangdong, penned a companion op-ed saying that “the US has always used Canada in its competition with China. Washington will not hesitate to put Ottawa in a dilemma.” And in December, Global Times featured another Canadian studies professor, Yao Peng, to write that “middle powers” such as Canada “depend” on Chinese trade, and will “will finally learn facts” when they threaten this relationship by meddling in Chinese affairs. The economic consequences of angering China have been a long-running theme of Chinese foreign relations of late, although editorials targeted at Canada have usually taken a paternalistic tone, labelling Canada as a naïf being led to ruin by its American overlords. In June, an op-ed in T-House, a Chinese state-affiliated media outlet, warned Canada that despite “domestic politics” and “U.S. pressure,” opposing China would only worsen its “economic woes.”