US allies’ game won’t aid China-Canada ties
Published: Dec 16, 2020 04:28 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

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the first international leader to talk with US president-elect Joe Biden on a phone call on November 9, after Biden declared victory in the presidential election - a defeat Donald Trump has yet to formally concede. 

Two days before the US presidential election on November 3, an Ipsos poll showed that "69 percent Canadians agree that Biden in White House will be good for Canada." Less than a week before this poll, a Guardian newspaper article suggested that "A Trump win or a disputed result are Canadians' worst fears." 

It is evident that Ottawa was expecting something from a Biden administration. After all, the Trump administration showed no mercy to this close ally, be it trade or diplomacy. Because of the Trump administration, Canada has been bogged down with diplomatic quagmires - especially with China over the Meng Wanzhou case and Huawei 5G. Therefore, one of Canada's expectations of Biden is to get a hand to lift itself out of the current dilemma and improve its relationship with China. 

According to a transcript from Trudeau's call, Canada, "looked forward to further strengthening the Canada-US relationship" and hoped Biden could help the two Canadians detained in China. Trudeau had spoken with Trump about this but didn't get what he wanted. 

The Meng's case has clearly been a hot potato for Canada since the very beginning. So in addition to seeking to set the two Canadians free, Trudeau undoubtedly wants to settle this case as soon as possible. In this sense, if the US under Biden presidency abandons the extradition of Meng or cancels the charge, it will completely untie the Trudeau administration. 

For the time being, Biden hasn't made any clear statement in response to Trudeau's expectations. One reason is that Biden is not officially sworn in, and cannot make any promise on behalf of the current government. 

The other reason is that China-US technology competition will be a continued trend in the future. Biden is unlikely to be capable of altering the US campaign against Chinese high-tech companies such as Huawei. The Biden team will be even tougher on these companies. Kurt Campbell, a former US official who has advised Biden, said on December 2 that the US should work with allies and deny China's access to areas where it was necessary to maintain a cutting edge, such as with artificial intelligence, robotics and 5G. 

From this perspective, the Meng case can also be used as leverage by the Biden administration. How this leverage is used will be based on US interests in China-US technology competition - what the Canadian government wants wasn't and won't be taken into consideration. 

Having been through Trump's presidency, Canada is obviously tempted by Biden's plan to reinforce alliances. Since December 2019, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has repeatedly talked about a new framework on Canada-China relations. However, according to a Reuters report from December 5, a person directly familiar with the policy reset talks said, "The only way to put real pressure on China is for a number of like-minded nations to form a common front. The United States is the key player here and without them, nothing will happen." This concurred with an October 1 editorial in the Globe and Mail titled, "What does Canada need to deal with China? Allies. The more, the better."

Ottawa has acted in such way. It launched joint statements with other members of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance, as well as with the EU in May, August, October and November to criticize China for its policies on Hong Kong and Xinjiang - clearly interfering in China's domestic affairs. 

But this was actually not a wise choice. Ottawa has thus made itself dependent on Washington and the alliance system for its own national interests. Taking allies' steps to pressure China won't put an end to the dilemma of the China-Canada relationship - just take a look at what has happened between Australia and China. Canada had better consider its relationship with China based on its own national interests and people's welfare.

The author is a research fellow with the Center for Canadian Studies, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn