IN THIS EDITION: Canadian views on Canada’s relationship with China; Chinese investment in Canada drops; Canada contracts with Nuctech.

Canadians on China

What do Canadians really think about Canada’s relationship with China? A new Ipsos Reid poll sheds some light:

• 82% agree on Trade diversification from China (35% strongly, 47% somewhat, 18% disagree – 2% strongly, 16% somewhat)

• 75% agree Canada should do more for Hong Kong and stand up against Chinese government (24% strongly, 50% somewhat, 25% disagree – 3% strongly, 22% somewhat)

• 62% agree that Canada strikes balance between cooperation and defending Canada’s interests (9% strongly, 53% somewhat, 38% disagree – 8% strongly, 30% somewhat)

• 58% agree that Prime Minister Trudeau’s is doing well to management Chinese relations (9% strongly, 49% somewhat, 42% disagreed – 15% strongly, 27% somewhat)

Those polled split on whether or not Canada should avoid offending the Chinese government and risking sanctions or other reactions with 49% in agreement (8% strongly, 41% somewhat) and 51% in disagreement (14% strongly, 37% somewhat).

On a question of whether Canada should completely sever economic ties with China, 62% disagreed (16% strongly, 46% somewhat) and 38% agreed (12% strongly, 26% somewhat).

Angus Reid polls have also found a drop in support for expanded trade with China. In April 2015, 40% of respondents said Canada should look to China to expand trade, which dropped to 22% in November 2019.

Chinese Investment drops in Canada, CPPIB increases

Tensions and other economic factors have caused Chinese investment to drop in Canada. In 2019, investment was $3.1 billion, lower than the $5 billion average over the previous four years. The decline in oil and gas prices could also be responsible for some of the drop as Chinese companies have put $51 billion into Canadian oil and gas since 2000.

The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has plans to increase investment in China between now and 2025, according to Suyi Kim, senior managing director and head of Asia Pacific for CPPIB. The Plan currently invests 13% of its portfolio in the country and wants to move that figure up to about 16.67% or 1/6.

First Huawei, now Nuctech?

The federal government has granted Nuctech, a Chinese-based company, contracts to install X-ray equipment in Canada’s 170 embassies, consulates and high commissions. The federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, has promised a review of the contracting process as concerns have emerged over Nuctech’s business practices in Namibia with three individuals alleged to have received kickbacks to grant the contract to Nuctech.

The U.S. government has pressured Europe to drop contracts with Nuctech over the company’s ties to the Chinese government and use of Nuctech scanners on particularly sensitive borders, such as Finland’s border with Russia. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) banned Nuctech in 2014 following a review.

European countries have also banned Huawei in the face of U.S. pressure and security concerns. Britain has now banned Huawei completely from the country’s 5G network. The UK had previously allowed Huawei with restrictions. Chinese government officials have condemned the move while the U.S. has welcomed the ban.

Canada has yet to announce a formal decision on Huawei. The tech company could provide critical infrastructure for developing rural broadband and technology access. The importance of such access is detailed in a new Canada West Foundation report – Towards a Rural Digital Economic Strategy.

Aldona Wos, the Trump administration’s nominee for Ambassador to Canada, has said in confirmation hearings that she will, “build on our existing bilateral cooperation to counter China’s malign activities, and continue to raise concerns regarding the authorization of access to the 5G network by Huawei and other untrusted vendors.”

Pressure continues over Uighur Muslims

Canadians are voicing a demand for parliament to take more punitive action against China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang where over one million Uighur Muslims are currently detained. Sixty-eight members of Parliament and senators added their names to a letter addressed to Prime Minister Trudeau insisting that Canada imposes sanctions on leading Chinese officials.

The question of how to pressure China, with sanctions as a possibility, also arose in a hearing before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Irwin Cotler, former Liberal Justice Minister, called for Canada to recognize the treatment of Uighur Muslims as genocide with reports from Xinjiang describing in detail the detention and forced sterilization of the minority group. Hearings on the issue will continue at the subcommittee level.

Complications for Hong Kong’s Chinese-Canadians

As Beijing is tightening its grip on Hong Kong, first-generation Chinese-Canadians currently based in Hong Kong could face complications if they try to return to Canada. Only 445 immigrants arrived from Hong Kong between January and April, 2020, with COVID-19 having a significant impact. For comparison, 1,525 Hong Kong immigrants came to Canada in 2018 and 1,540 came in 2019. This could change in response to the recent implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong. One Richmond, B.C., based immigration company is reporting a significant increase in the number of requests from those in Hong Kong looking to come to Canada.

The Chinese Nationality Law considers children of Chinese nationals born abroad to be Chinese citizens which would subject them to Chinese law and efforts to prevent nationals from leaving Hong Kong. The Chinese government has condemned British and Australian efforts to provide pathways to citizenship and threatened to remove recognition of British National Overseas passports. Canada may choose to tread carefully to avoid the same threats for its own citizens.

Everything Else

• In response to impacts of floods and African Swine Fever, China allows pork production to return to urban areas with multi-level farm projects building capacity for 200 million pigs. Government policy had previously pushed farms to rural and remote areas to reduce environmental impacts on urban areas from farms.

• Chinese rapeseed oil futures have reached a record lead over soy oil since 2012 with spread of 2,500 yuan per tonne. Rapeseed has also reached a record since 2013 over palm oil futures with a spread of 3,196 yuan per tonne. Traders are attributing the rise of rapeseed to tensions with Canada.

• The B.C. government invested $10 million into the establishment of a new Chinese Canadian Museum through the Chinese Canadian Museum Society, with plans to construct in Vancouver’s Chinatown and expand across the province through virtual online components.

• The U.S. Consulate in Chengdu has officially closed, as has the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Houston. U.S. officials ordered the Chinese consulate to shut down amid allegations that the Chinese were engaged in espionage at a Texas-based research laboratory; the Chinese ordered the Chengdu consulate to close in retaliation.

Stephany Laverty, policy analyst and Taylor Blaisdell, research intern

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.