Relations with China have become a major foreign policy objective of many countries. The dazzling economic performance of the Communist state in the last few decades has lifted it to a top position on the world stage. It is now engaged with the American superpower in a desperate trade war that only emphasizes its importance to middle powers and developing countries.
are several methodological traps to avoid in dealing with China so let us start
building a foreign policy framework there.
hocism is probably the worst position to be in since China is light years ahead
of this view and has established a policy to deal with each region and country.
The Chinese foreign policy makers are meticulous and know what they want from a
country, how and when.
to articulate a policy based on immediacy will produce poor results. Canada is
a case in point. Arresting the Huawei executive, Meng Whanzhou, on its
territory based on a US bench warrant was ill thought and brought on the
present crisis for which Canada is paying dearly.
has suspended some important agricultural imports from Canada like pork and
canola, imprisoned its citizens for bogus crimes, and will likely block any
attempt by Canada to obtain a Security Council seat.
the Canadians are reduced to asking Donald Trump for help, a sure sign of
impending failure and a continuing source of abject public ridicule. Ad hocism
is for lazy states who prefer not to invest in coherent and cogent foreign
many middle powers like Canada, Australia and several European states fear the
Chinese superpower and its ability to have a negative impact on economic
well-being. However, fear of size either in a military or economic sense should
not be driving one’s policy.
applies to the USA, as well, and one can find inspiration in Mao’s own ‘paper
tiger’ concept. Another theoretical source of support can be found in Thomas
Hobbes’ Leviathan, a classic and necessary propaedeutic to any foreign policy
Hobbes’ state of nature, even the weakest can eliminate the strongest by means
of wit and so it is in the world of nations. There is a fundamental equality
amongst nations and you do not need a nuclear weapon to assert it. Someone
always has a bigger weapon, or more of them or is simply smarter than the more
fair, comparing the present world to Hobbes’ state of nature is an
exaggeration. However, when you have rogue nations like China and its ilk
(Iran, Syria and Russia), you cannot afford to make the jump to civil society
even in the presence of signed international agreements and contracts, the
United Nations or the World Trade Organization. In almost all cases, these
international bodies have no executive power to implement decisions no matter
how much they conform to one’s conception of the rule of law. Performance is
not always a given.
tend to see the international political system as a pendulum swinging back and
forth between the state of nature and civil society. To assume that one side of
the equation does not exist is a foreign policy trap. You need to prepare for
both and this is especially the case with China.
you have taken the bull by the horns and are prepared to expend time and effort
to build a China policy. First, one of your key resources can be found in civil
society organizations, which contain numerous China experts. For example, in
Canada, there are many university study and research groups dedicated to
studying the history and politics of China. Many Chinese students have studied
in our universities. After all, it is there that Huawei began its knowledge transfers
illicit and otherwise. Not enough Western students have lived and studied in
China due mainly to Western arrogance.
need to establish a strategic nexus of university and business level talent
from which to develop your policy. To this end, it is absolutely essential to
fuel research on China and its history and languages in order to maintain a
strong renewable civil society cohort of experts capable of informing your
regard, the arrogance of Global Affairs bureaucrats needs to be replaced with a
recognition of how rich and complex Chinese culture can be. Culture is one of
the means by which the Far East can be understood but first you need a large
dose of humility. Is it really that surprising that the Chinese chose Michael
Kovrig, a new Chinese language speaker, to arrest and detain? His knowledge of
the culture, language and politics made him a resource of international
the Chinese ‘miracle’ is founded on Western ignorance and Beijing knows this and
actually promotes Western cultural ignorance while portraying themselves to
developing countries as saviors of the non-aligned world. Never has callous
self-interest played such a dominant role in foreign policy as in the case of
China. Self-interested, self-regarding and, above all, hypocritical.
to the wise. Trying to oppose Chinese communications technology with tariffs or
state -imposed regulation will not work. After all, the Chinese simply got
better by being smarter. They understand that the economy of today and tomorrow
is a knowledge-based economy. Knowledge is gold. One has only to look at the
field of cyber security. The better the mousetrap, the smarter the mouse needs
to be. Huawei got to where it is by being one of the best through the free flow
of information and knowledge. No one is going to change that. We have to get
weaknesses seem slight in comparison to its immense economic and political
weight in the world. How can a middle power like Canada or Australia manage to
keep relations on an even keel?
as in the history of the Soviet Union and now Russia, are a thorn in the side
of the giant. In the absence of press freedom, rumors about re-education camps
full of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs cannot be substantiated. States should
push for full disclosure.
Kong and Taiwan are continuing points of pressure. Developing links with them
will create leverage with China.
legacy cannot be understated. Funds and cooperation should be afforded pro-Tibet
opponents to the Chinese dictatorship are few. They need to be supported and
their work funded and widely distributed.
should invest in regional bi-lateral links with countries located along the
Silk Road initiative including Turkey, Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan. We need to be
present to make strategic investments and make ourselves indispensable for the
culmination of this initiative. French diplomacy has understood this.
universities, business groups and foreign affairs officials to dramatically
accelerate Mandarin and Cantonese language training and targeted cyber security
ply soft power in Africa and Latin America – youth exchanges, study abroad,
professional exchanges, research agreements as a counter weight to the growing
presence of Chinese business and technology interests.
measures should be a blend of public and covert measures. It is not necessary
for states to martyr themselves by raising the human rights issue every time
there is an official visit to China. The above measures will be more successful
in getting results.
biggest danger for China is the incoherence between its Marxist theoretical
heritage, its ancient and venerable culture and the perils of its new
capitalist religion. It is a powerful and potentially fatal cocktail over which
the Chinese leadership has no control. Its political face is dialectical
materialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, its economic base is state
capitalism and its culture, mostly impenetrable to most Westerners, is based on
feudal lordship and bondage values.
the absolute opposite of Marx’s theory and its collapse will be based on the
old dialectical law of the negation of the negation. Despite attempts to mask
its fissures by banning access to the truth for its population, in such a
social equation fraught with contradictions and uncertainty, democracy takes on
its rarefied air of freedom and values and becomes a most dangerous foe.
Bruce Mabley is a former Canadian diplomat having served in the Middle East,
and is the director of the Mackenzie-Papineau think tank in Montreal.