Trudeau's government unveils long-awaited plan to confront 'increasingly disruptive' China

Canada's long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy describes China as a "increasingly disruptive global power" on the world stage — a social and economic power too great to ignore but also increasingly focused on bending international rules to suit its own interests.

Using very blunt language, the strategy says the Canadian government needs to be "clear-eyed" about China's goals in the Far East and elsewhere. He pledged to spend nearly half a billion dollars over five years to enhance military and intelligence cooperation with allies in the region.

"China's rise, made possible by the same international rules and norms it is now increasingly ignoring, is having an enormous impact in the Indo-Pacific, and has ambitions to become a major power in the region," said the 26-page document, which was provided to the media. ahead of its official launch in Vancouver on Sunday.

“China is making large-scale investments to build economic influence, diplomatic impact, offensive military capabilities and advanced technology. China wants to shape the international order into a more permissive environment for interests and values ​​that are increasingly distant from ours.”

The strategy document also said that "China's enormous size and influence make cooperation necessary to address some of the world's existential pressures, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity, global health, and nuclear proliferation."

In that regard, Canada's foreign policy blueprint reflects the approach taken by its closest allies, including the United States, which last February released its own vision for engagement in the region. The difference between the American and Canadian strategies lies in how the Canadian document makes clear that it will "always unapologetically defend our national interests" and that its views will be "shaped by a realistic and lucid assessment of China at this time."

Many observers – including some Liberal figures – have urged the government over the past few years to maintain the pro-business and investment ties with Beijing that have been built over the past two decades.

The new strategy document, however, appears to reflect the lessons of the bruising international clashes that have pushed relations between Canada and China into a freeze: the arrest and extradition fight involving Chinese telecommunications executive Meng Wanzhou; China's retaliatory detentions of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig; and even a lecture Chinese President Xi Jinping recently delivered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — an event caught on camera. or damage our national security interests and those of partners in the region," the strategy document said.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBC's Rosemary Barton Live, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly described the overall plan as "pragmatic" and principled.

"Our approach is clear, you know, and we have a clear framework that basically protects our national interest without compromising our values ​​and principles," said Joly.

"So what I have said many times at this point is we will challenge when we have to and we will work together when we have to."

Foreign investment, foreign interference

Overall, the strategy envisages investing about $2 billion to, among other things, strengthen Canada's "infrastructure, democracy and citizens against foreign interference."

It proposes changes to the Canada Investment Act to prevent state-owned companies and other foreign entities that threaten Canada's national security from expropriating critical industries and Canadian intellectual property. All federal departments are notified to review Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with China and other countries to ensure Canada's national interests are protected.

The strategy upholds Canada's One-China policy regarding Taiwan. The island - a democracy - faces increasing threats from Beijing, which has not ruled out using military force in its bid to unify Taiwan with the mainland.

"Canada will oppose any unilateral action that threatens the status quo in the Taiwan Strait," the strategy said. On Sunday, Defense Minister Anita Anand answered questions about Canada's willingness to defend Taiwan, as well as whether the government was concerned about a backlash from China because of Canada's increased presence.

"We will ensure that the region remains stable and will continue to grow economically," he said.

Also on Sunday, Joly drew a direct line between Canada's involvement in the Pacific and another major focus of his foreign policy: the Arctic. He said closer ties with South Korea and Japan would support Canada's goal of maintaining sovereignty in the region, given growing interest from countries such as China.

"More Canadian men and women will be in the region to ensure peace and also uphold the rule of law," he said.

The strategy document has been in the making for years and is highly anticipated by Canada's allies in the region, including Japan and South Korea, who have lobbied for deeper cooperation. It also contains a section on India, which includes a commitment to work towards a new trade agreement.

The Liberal government promised when it was first elected in 2015 to develop a new approach to China after years of sour relations under the previous Conservative administration.

But Canada has struggled to find ways to engage with an increasingly assertive – sometimes belligerent – ​​China and its supreme leader Xi, who openly rejects elements of Western-style governance, such as the separation of powers.

The Liberals hinted at plans to increase Canada's military commitment to the region during the prime minister's recent overseas trip to the G20 summit.

The commitment was outlined in the strategy document through promises to increase involvement in international military exercises and to increase the number of Canadian warships deployed in the region.

There have also been promises of helping smaller countries in the region build up their security forces, perhaps with the help of Canadian training. The pledge is similar to a promise made by the Liberal government in 2017 to help improve the training and quality of UN peacekeepers – a promise that has not been fulfilled.

The strategy says the military commitments made are related to Canada's ongoing defense policy review, which was ordered after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. The study has not yet been published.

The defense and security promises in the Indo-Pacific Strategy come at a time when Canada's military is short of 10,000 members and is struggling to recruit new ones.

Joly said the government will make the strategy work and will "put the money where our mouths are."

Earlier this month, the Chinese embassy in Canada responded to a speech made by Joly previewing the new strategy, saying it "contains a lot of negative China-related content that distorts the truth, exaggerates the so-called 'Chinese threat' and discredits China's image." , which is a major interference in China's internal affairs. China is very concerned about this and resolutely opposes it."

The strategy was welcomed by the US ambassador to Canada, David Cohen, in a statement Sunday.

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