Canada’s Engagement With China Should Seek Purpose Over Profit
The number of Chinese acquisitions approved by Ottawa has garnered crucial consideration since 2015 with the purchase of key Canadian businesses such as Norsat International, a satellite firm; Retirement Concepts, a retirement home chain; and ITF Technologies, a high-tech firm.
China’s latest $1.5 billion bid to buy Canada’s Aecon Group is thankfully now under a national security review pursuant to the Investment Act, and will hopefully be rejected because of China Communications Construction Company’s (CCCC) poor transparency standards and past fraudulent practices.
In response to Canada’s scrutiny, China’s ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye recently stated it is “immoral” for Canadians to oppose these takeovers. Canadians are right to be troubled by the Chinese government’s lack of respect for our national security reviews of their increasing number of debatable acquisitions.
Let there be no mistake: Ultimate ownership of these Chinese state-owned enterprises belongs to the single ruling Chinese Communist Party, which is under the leadership of the self-declared lifelong President Xi Jinping. China is therefore clearly not interested in transparency when it comes to Canadian procurement. Their main interest lies solely in advancing their trillion-dollar “One Belt, One Road” initiative to push the biggest international development program since the United States launched the Marshall Plan after the Second World War.
Canadians need to understand that China’s historic infrastructure initiative seeks to safeguard raw materials and other key infrastructure opportunities under the guise of profitable investments around the world, but at great political cost. Our close allies like the United States, the European Union, and Australia are waking up to China’s ambitious plan to reshape globalization and are standing up to its “pick and choose” interpretation of international standards.
The “One Belt, One Road” initiative should also be a bigger policy concern for Canadian parliamentarians, especially since China expanded its interests in the icy north as a self-declared “near-Arctic country.” Under its new “Polar Silk Road” initiative, China is using its economic might to pursue a wide range of interests in a region experts believe could hold a quarter of the world’s oil.
What are the risks? Simply look at China’s expansive, expansionist, and revisionist approach to its controversial nine-dash line territorial claim in the disputed South China Sea, ironically where the CCCC helped build artificial islands to assert its contested claim.
Our engagement with China should seek purpose over profit. That is why I tabled a motion on April 24 calling on Canada to take a stronger and principled stance on the South China Sea disputes to further enshrine the values of freedom, fairness, and collaboration that governs the collective maritime heritage for all countries involved.
The motion passed, which means the Senate is stating its concern on China’s escalating and hostile behaviour in the South China Sea, and urging Ottawa to take a principled position on one of the biggest geopolitical conflicts of our time.
Canada has a long and usually positive history of engagement with China. However, Beijing’s consistent challenge to the international order, the rule of law, human rights, and the democratic world cannot be overlooked.
Thanh Hai Ngo is a Conservative Party of Canada senator representing Ontario. He is the first Canadian of Vietnamese descent to sit in the Senate.