The People’s Republic of China wasted little time in responding to Canada’s ejection of a Chinese diplomat on Monday regarding an alleged plot to intimidate a Canadian lawmaker. The Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry released a statement condemning Canada’s decision and announced a reciprocal move by declaring a Canadian diplomat from its consulate in Shanghai pesona non grata. Diplomatic expulsions are part of the larger game and nothing out of the ordinary. They occur from time to time, normally being utilized as a way to send a public message to another nation-state.
In the case of China and Canada, however, the reason behind this latest tit-for-tat is China’s emboldened attempts to intimidate critics beyond its borders as well as growing efforts to interfere with the nation’s domestic politics. A recently released report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service indicated a Chinese diplomat based in Toronto was attempting to intimidate an opposition lawmaker and his family in Hong Kong. The report went on to say that this was part of a broader campaign aimed at conservative politicians unfriendly to Beijing, in an indirect attempt to boost support for Justin Trudeau’s ruling government. The report has triggered a storm of controversy in Canada, all but making certain relations between Beijing and Ottawa will not be improving at any point soon.
The issue of Chinese interference with Canadian citizens and politics came to a head at the November 2022 G20 summit in Indonesia. Xi Jinping was caught on video dressing down Justin Trudeau over leaked details of talks between the two leaders. Bad blood was evident and following the summit, Sino-Canadian relations continued to plummet. Clashes on trade matters, China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and the Taiwan situation have only served to exacerbate the situation and hold off the prospect of Beijing and Ottawa improving their strained relationship.
I haven’t talked much about our friends to the north in this blog, but tonight I’d like to make an exception. Canadian news media is now projecting that Justin Trudeau will remain as Canada’s prime minister, and the Liberal Party will remain in power as the results of the Canadian Federal Election come in. Polls taken in the days before the election suggested the elections would be close and Conservatives, with their leader Andrew Sheer, might be able to assume control of the government. As it stands right now, that doesn’t appear likely to happen.
Trudeau is safe, although its not yet clear if Liberals will form a minority or majority government. Again, as it stands right now, a minority government seems more likely. This scenario will leave Trudeau in a far weaker position, and needing the support of other left-leaning political parties to push legislation through. When the election results become more concrete, a better picture of the current political situation in Canada will develop.
However it goes, this election will have little effect on Canada’s geopolitical stature. Truth be told, the Trudeau government’s actions abroad have resulted in a minimal net gain for Canada, except for a handful of good soundbites.
Perhaps later in the week, as it becomes clear what direction the new Canadian government will be going in, I’ll look at the future of Canada’s military, and geopolitical agendas.
President Trump and other world leaders have arrived in Buenos Aires for the 2018 G20 Leaders’ Summit. As the summit starts, there are a number of subplots worth watching over the course of the next few days. The recent clash between Ukrainian and Russian ships in the Black Sea region, concerns about whether or not the US-China trade war will escalate, and the continuing blowback of the Khashoggi Murder are three of the issues G20 leaders will be contending with.
Kicking off the summit was an announcement that the United States, Canada, and Mexico have completed and signed a trade agreement. The United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement (USMCA) will replace NAFTA. When President Trump took office restructuring or even replacing NAFTA was a top priority. After two years of negotiations, and some arm-twisting, the new agreement has become a reality.
The fate of President Trump’s planned meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Buenos Aires is uncertain right now. Trump announced he was canceling the meeting in response to tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The Kremlin, however, has said nothing about the talk having been cancelled, leaving the fate of the meeting up in the air.
Interaction between Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will be closely watched this weekend as well. The two leaders will meet during the summit, raising hopes that the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies can be deescalated, and the souring relations between China and the United States reversed. A ceasefire on tariffs would be especially welcomed, although one is unlikely to be reached this weekend. Trump views tariffs as leverage and an effective weapon. He will not be prepared to give it up so easily. The US-China relationship is complex, and a prime example of economic and geopolitical interests clashing head on.
It would seem, for the moment, that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will receive a pass on the Khashoggi murder. The G20’s attention this weekend will be on the global economy, climate and energy concerns, and other similar issues. Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi agents at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul is a topic to be avoided and understandably so. The G20 is an economic club at its heart. As a general rule, dubious political matters are avoided at all costs, even though the global media would love nothing more than for Salman, and Saudi Arabia to receive a comeuppance of sorts in Buenos Aires.