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Thursday, November 16, 2006 

Harper Hits Chinese Wall

The editorial in today's Regina Leader Post has a strong caution for Prime Minister Harper and the risk he is taking concerning Canada's trade with China. His stance is being portrayed by tory spin doctors as 'moral leadership' but will it turn out to be ideological 'folly'.

The Leader-Post
Thursday, November 16, 2006


In Brief: Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to rethink a confrontational approach to relations with China.

China signed a series of multi-billion-dollar aid, trade and investment deals last week as part of a sweeping diplomatic and economic initiative designed to increase its political influence and strengthen its trade ties in Africa.

The initiative's importance goes beyond the obvious benefits that will accrue from these new partnerships. What the deals also signal is the growing international influence of a country that until recently focused much of its energies on domestic matters.

It is within this context that western nations, including Canada, should reassess how they deal with this complex nation of a billion people. No longer can western nations simply scold China for its faults and treat it as if it were a marginal player on the international stage.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper discovered this week just how much Canada's relationship with China is changing. Since coming to power, the Harper government has been quite critical of China on a number of fronts, including matters related to human rights and trade. And it has done so in a very public and direct way.

On Tuesday, in what can be interpreted as a diplomatic snub, China cancelled a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Harper that was supposed to take place prior to the start of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation conference. The cancellation not only indicates that China is miffed with how it is being treated, but it also suggests that diplomatic harmony is less important to China than it is to Canada.

China remains a country of stark contrasts, a nation of widespread poverty and human rights abuses, but also a land of great wealth and growing political and economic influence.

The Harper government, however, does not seem to fully appreciate China's evolution on the world stage. That was reinforced Wednesday when Harper said, despite the meeting cancellation, that Canada would continue to be frank and direct in its concerns about human rights.

Granted, China's human rights record should not be ignored, but neither should its value as a trading partner. These days, quiet diplomacy on the former and active engagement on the latter would be the preferred strategy.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2006

Regina Leader Post

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