Canada and Australia need to adjust to China's reality to move on
Published: Dec 02, 2020 05:18 PM

Huawei's Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, wearing an electronic ankle tag, leaves her home for a court appearance in Vancouver, Canada, on October 1, 2019. Photo: VCG

Does Ottawa intend to follow Canberra's path to counter Beijing? This is not at all feasible!

Huawei's Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arbitrarily detained by Canada two years ago. During the past three years, Australia has been proactively engaging in the US' Indo-Pacific Strategy and aggressively interfering in China-related issues such as the South China Sea. Canada, Australia and India have played an active role in coordinating with the US to contain China in terms of trade and technology. 

Two years later, Ottawa has not delivered any willingness to release Meng yet. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still maintains his hard-line stance over freeing her. The administration of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison remains hostile against China. The administration of US President Donald Trump has repeated groundless attacks and accusations against China. Furthermore, the Trump administration has instigated nationalism and populism and worked against globalization. These weak policies have failed to stand the test of time, markets, the collective will of the American people, and international community. And now: Washington is ushering in a new president.

Since the Iraq war in 2003, the US has been struggling with wars, counter-terrorist activities, and meddling with regional affairs to maximum its gains. It has maintained a US-centric international order with massive military expenditures and losses of life. But this US ambition seems to have become increasingly difficult to maintain. 

Meanwhile, China has been rising peacefully and its economy has become the second largest in the world. This has fostered China's capability to maintain international order when the globe has encountered profound changes unseen in a century.

Great powers have been the first to be aware of such changes, while some middle powers have failed to fundamentally respond to the changes in terms of logic and strategies of development. This has resulted in many disputes, frictions and discords between middle powers and great powers.

Both Canada and Australia, as middle powers, accordingly have their influence and discourses of power on the international stage. They used to be friendly toward China and coordinated with China in domains such as anti-terrorism, climate change and regional economic development. However, when China's economy became second only to the US and the gap between the two great powers narrowed, some of these middle countries cannot now adhere to diplomatic principles underlining peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and reciprocity in their dealings with China. Sometimes, certain middle powers would like to take sides with the US.

Middle powers like Canada and Australia should have a clear picture of the logic behind the great power competition so as to apply appropriate strategies. They should also try to avoid frictions and spats with China. Unfortunately, over the two years Canberra has repeatedly provoked Beijing. Canada has labored as a henchman of the US, by illegally detaining Meng. These moves are totally beyond the pale of the rule of law. 

Some middle powers such as Canada and Australia believe China is more dependent on them than they are on China. However, as a matter of fact, given China's economy and the huge domestic market, Canada and Australia depend much more on China. When frictions take place in trade and diplomacy, and Australia's and Canada's economic ties with China have been negatively affected, both middle powers will finally learn facts.

US president-elect Joe Biden said in November that "we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy." Although it was not a response on how to deal with ties with China, it can give us some hints on his forthcoming China policy. Beijing-Washington relations are expected to improve — to some extent at least. If Canada and Australia cannot adjust their China policies, they will suffer greater losses and will fail to achieve their targeted economic growth by taking advantage of China's rapid rise. At this moment, Canada should unconditionally release Meng as an opportunity to boost its ties with China. And Australia should stop its groundless accusations against China.

Japan's approach to dealing with China during the past three years may offer a reference for Canada and Australia. China and Japan jointly promoted the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership on November 15, injecting stimulus into the Asia-Pacific regional economic recovery. Current China-Japan ties are positive and conductive for both countries and the whole region.

The author is deputy secretary-general of the Canadian Studies Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn