In this issue: Digital agreements, powerhouses, and bitcoin rigs, Cybersecurity concerns, Canola and wheat reroute  


The China Brief will take a month-long hiatus in August but will be back in September with some changes. The brief will now be published once a month and will include a Belt and Road Initiative update. This update is part of CWF’s expanding work on how to manage the realities of Western Canada’s trade with China. Please email  if you have any other suggestions for the brief.


Digital agreements, powerhouses, and bitcoin rigs

The U.S is attempting to forge a digital trade agreement to “check China’s influence in the region,” according to a Bloomberg report. The agreement is still in development but could include countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. It could create standards for the digital economy, including rules on the use of data, trade facilitation and electronic customs arrangements.

One can hope that this plan fares better than President Biden’s “Build Back Better World” initiative to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative. A month after the announcement, no specifics or future plans have been announced; the only mention has been speculation on the plan’s effectiveness from the Globe and Mail, Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, and the East Asia Forum. New insights though may be provided at a CSIS event this Friday.

On the tech front in China, the 14th Five-Year Plan could push tech development in Wuhan and turn the region into “the next innovation powerhouse.” The Asia Pacific Foundation explores this development in its latest dispatch series here.

However, China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency is pushing some innovation to Western Canada. An estimated 1 million Bitcoin mining rigs are headed to Alberta. Blackrock Petroleum announced the move which will see the rigs set up at natural gas sites in the province. As part of the move, BlackRock Petroleum acquired Caledonian Midstream which operates the first site for the rigs, Quirk Creek. Bitcoin miners use “stray natural gas unwanted by oil companies to power their search.”

Cybersecurity concerns

Recent news of an attack on 400,000 Microsoft Exchange servers has Canada, the U.S and other Western allies pointing fingers at the Chinese government. The Globe and Mail reported on the allegations, which China refutes and which come without sanctions. The coalition directing these allegations says it’s “confident” the attack can be traced to individuals associated with the People’s Republic of China. The news follows a statement alert from the American Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) that China attacked U.S. oil and gas infrastructure in 2011 and 2013.

Canola and wheat reroute

Droughts that have plagued the Prairies since the early growing season have resulted in production falls in wheat and canola. According to a Reuters report on the situation, Saskatchewan wheat rated at 77 per cent good or excellent in June is now rated 25 per cent good or excellent. Canola rated 64 per cent good or excellent in June is now at 18 per cent good or excellent. In Alberta, spring wheat is now rated 39 per cent good or excellent compared to 84 per cent a month earlier; canola is now rated 33 per cent good or excellent compared to 80 per cent a month earlier. The same article says that China and other countries could look to Australia to backfill the drop in supply.

Chinese Emissions Trading Scheme

China, the globe’s largest GHG emitter, recently launched its first national emissions-trading scheme. China’s market would be the largest in the world; the plan has some notable differences from the 45 other GHG emission reduction schemes in countries around the world. The market operates with intensity of emissions rather than absolute emissions as its focus for reduction. Critics are concerned the plan is not ambitious enough to reach the country’s 2030 and 2060 targets. Read the full story in this article in Nature.

Belt and Road Initiative in Afghanistan

Now that the United States has exited Afghanistan, China, Russia and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are stepping up to “fill the security and governmental void” according to Silk Road Briefing. For China, this is an opportunity to build up Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure in the country. It has worked to build relations with the Taliban to support its efforts. The main project the Chinese would like to see built is an extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). However, expansion won’t come without opposition in Pakistan and other areas, which this Asia Times article explores in detail.

Recent numbers for China’s Shandong Province, reported by China’s XinhuaNet, show the economic benefit of the BRI to China. The province “saw its foreign trade with countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative rise 45.5 percent year on year to over 423.48 billion yuan (about 65.47 billion U.S. dollars) in the first half the year.” ASEAN trade from the province “accounted for more than 45 percent of its total trade volume with Belt and Road countries during the period,” according to statistics announced at a press conference held by the provincial government.

In other news

  • Excessive flood waters have devastated Shaolin Temple, Henan province neighbourhoods, and subway systems in Zhengzhou; read more here.
  • Canada’s federal government and the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa exchanged words over the South China Sea. Ottawa ” urged Beijing to abide by a five-year-old ruling rejecting most of its South China Sea claims.” The embassy warned that such statements could cause more harm to the Canada-China relationship.
  • After a vote did not pass the Canadian Senate to declare the treatment of Uyghurs in China a genocide, more than 200 protestors rallied outside the Prime Minister’s office. Read more here. Bilal Malik, a Canadian based Uyghur Muslim, completed a 15-day march to Ottawa in protest. He delivered a letter of protest from various organizations urging the national Olympic committee to boycott the 2022 Bei Olympics.
  • The U.S government recently came down on Chinese firms buying American agricultural land and agribusinesses. As of 2020, Chinese owners controlled about 192,000 agricultural acres in the U.S according to the US Department of Agriculture.
  • In Saskatoon, a new craze for authentic Chinese tofu has helped one Chinese Canadian business owner. In an interview with the Star Phoenix, Yao Bo explained his unique process which uses fresh, organic Canadian soybeans to make what is believed to be the only fresh-made, authentic tofu in Saskatchewan.
  • The China Building Materials Academy (CBMA) and Canada’s International CCS Knowledge Centre (Knowledge Centre) are collaborating on using carbon capture to reduce cement industry emissions. Read the announcement here.

– Stephany Laverty, policy analyst and Mehera Salah, intern policy analyst

The China Brief is a compilation of stories and links related to China and its relationship with Canada’s West. The opinions expressed in the links are those of the articles’ authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the Canada West Foundation and our affiliates.