Last week, we asked China Brief readers to share their thoughts on Ottawa’s decision to block the sale of Aecon to China. Here’s a snapshot of what we heard.

*Note that China Brief will not be publishing on Monday, June 11, but will return to your inbox the following week, Monday, June 18.


On May 23, the Canadian government blocked the sale of Aecon – Canada’s third largest construction company – to China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC), citing national security concerns (Check out Brief 02 for a deep dive into the issue). Much of what this means remains up in the air – including how China will react, and what this will do to our relationship long term.

Meanwhile, we reached out to our China Brief readers for their thoughts.

Overall, a positive attitude about the decision

More than half of China Brief readers who responded felt favourably about the decision. Specifically, 38% of respondents said they “completely agree” with the Canadian government’s decision to block the sale of Aecon to CCCC, with an additional 21% saying they agreed with the decision. However, a further 17% of respondents said they “completely disagree” and 17% said they disagreed. Eight per cent of participants were not sure.

Even though most respondents thought it was a good idea to block the sale, a majority thought that this will harm Canada’s relationship with China, at least in the short term. Yet, though respondents expect a negative reaction from China, they thought it was worth it to block the Aecon sale – suggesting that most agreed that, whatever the national security review revealed, it was more important than the relationship with Canada’s second largest trading partner. Clearly survey respondents feel quite cautious about China and how Canada should approach its relationship with the economic giant.

In a similar vein, most participants thought that China would see the Aecon block as a slight: a full 87 per cent thought China will see this as a slight. Of this 87 per cent, however, only a third of respondents thought that China will retaliate.

Comments

Here’s more on what our China Brief readers had to say about the Aecon decision.

Q: If you think the Chinese government might retaliate – how could it do so?

A: Restrict Chinese investment into Canada generally. It could also restrict imports of key Canadian exports to China — we got a strong message when Canola imports where interrupted due to “excessive inventories”.

A: not convinced that they will or will not retaliate. need a 4th option, a 50-50 on the retaliation. if they do retaliate it will likely be to limit investment by Canadian companies, esp services like banking or insurance.

A: By making it more difficult to deal with them on trade discussions.

Other comments:

We regulate markets to enable competition — this is not going away — are these [Chinese] SOE’s really a competitive threat? If so, are there actions we can take to minimize those unfair advantages.

 If Canadians don’t develop their own intellectual property, I’m not sure why we would limit the investment of others to do so. 

 Relationships with political actors change over time — former enemies are now allies. How do we move in that direction?

 Thank you to everyone who participated!

– Sarah Pittman, Policy Analyst