IN THIS EDITION: Two Sessions end, African swine fever returns, sanctions over human rights violations, the trials for Kovrig and Spavor

Five-Year Plan 

After last week’s Two Sessions meeting, China has approved and published the draft 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035. The shortened name is Five Year Plan (2021-2025). Access the Chinese draft text here. The development plan is, among several objectives, part of China’s efforts to manage growth to avoid getting stuck in the middle-income trap. It sets the GDP target at 6 per cent, which many suspected would be set at 8 per cent. Foreign Policy has more on the economic goals of the plan in an article by Alice Han, China director at Greenmantle and Eyck Freymann, author of One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World (Harvard University Press 2020) and director of Indo-Pacific at Greenmantle, a macroeconomic advisory firm. China’s Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu has an op-ed in the Globe and Mail in which he writes about economic benefits of continued China-Canada relations and market opportunities under the new plan.

As food security is a key aspect of the plan, China’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Tang Renjian said China must “force five passes and slay six generals.” The comment comes after a year in which Chinese farmers faced significant floods and similar conditions are possible in the coming months. Despite the floods, the country was largely able to meet demand for wheat and rice with imports required to meet 3 per cent of domestic demand. In comparison to other developed countries, the Minister noted that China only has 50-60 per cent of the production land for corn and soy and 80 per cent the production rate of milk.

CWF’s report When interests converge: Agriculture as a basis of re-engagement with China has also identified China’s natural endowment restraints and why Canada is an important and reliable agricultural supply source for China. This emphasizes the need for Canada to continue to engage China to resolve agricultural non-tariff barrier issues and market access. For those who are or want to engage in agricultural trade to China, Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton had some advice in a recent interview. Recognize that “China is not a monolith” and is made up of 22 diverse regions, “leverage the favourable impressions that Chinese consumers have towards Canadian products” and that “we have to diversify beyond that into other parts of Asia. We have to be a dominant player.”

The Canada West Foundation, in collaboration with centres for the study of Asia and China in western Canada is preparing to do a deep dive on the five-year plan to include context for understanding the plan, why it’s important and what it means for Canada and Western Canada in particular, flagging areas to which Canadian businesses and government should pay attention. Stay tuned.

African swine fever (ASF) returns

While China pushes for food security, there are reports of new outbreaks of African Swine Fever (ASF) in China; Chinese scientists at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute have also confirmed ASF mutations. Some of the mutations are just as virulent while others are less virulent and more transmissible, which makes them harder to detect. Sichuan province, the largest pork producing province in China, has banned transport of live pigs out of the province and has implemented checkpoints, inspections and disinfection protocols. As Canada and other pork exporters to China saw in the summer and fall, the latest outbreaks could increase Chinese pork imports.  

Canada has made some progress to protect its domestic pork supply from ASF, a need which was highlighted in a previous China Brief. Canada and the United States signed a joint protocol for bilateral trade if ASF is found in wild pigs in either country. The protocol is the first of its kind and, from the statement, “[u]nder the protocol, all trade in live swine, swine germplasm, and untreated swine products would initially stop if ASF is found in wild pigs, while trade in products treated to make the ASF virus ineffective could continue.” Three phases would guide reopening trade. 

Sanctions over human rights violations

Canada, the United States and the European Union announced sanctions against Chinese businesses and individuals on March 22 over human rights violations in Xianjiang. Canada sanctioned Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, Wang Mingshan, secretary of the political and legal affairs committee in Xinjiang and former director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, Zhu Hailun, former deputy party secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Wang Junzheng, secretary of the party committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Canada also sanctioned a state-owned security company in the region, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau. China announced retaliatory sanctions on EU officials, the EU’s Political and Security Committee and the non-profit Alliance of Democracies Foundation. China also registered its displeasure over the move with Canadian and EU officials. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China also said  “Canada is in no position to act as a ‘teacher’ on human rights issues, or to tell China what to do!” Ambassador Barton was called back to Canada for strategic discussions on issues with China. 

The trials for Kovrig and Spavor

Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig recently had trialsSpavor’s was on March 19 and took two hours while Kovrig’s March 22 took just over three hours. The courts will meet later to set a date for the decisions. Both courts were closed to members of the public and diplomatic officials, including Canadian officials. 

A recent Angus Reid survey in Canada highlights the concerns that Canadians have over the detention of the Canadians and its impact on the Chinese-Canada relationship. 43 per cent of Canadians surveyed strongly agree and 34 per cent agree with the statement that “unless Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are released from detention in China, the two countries cannot have a good relationship.” A recent article from suggests that ties between the country will not improve until Meng Wanzhou is returned to China.  

Anti-Asian hate crimes in Canada

The shootings of eight people, six who were Asian women, in Atlanta, Georgia, have renewed calls for action against anti-Asian racism. The shootings, which took place in massage parlours, “highlight the compounding factors of race, gender and sex work when it comes to hate crimes.” Canada has also seen increased anti-Asian hate crimes over the pandemic, there have been 957 incidents reported to Fight COVID Racism by Asian-Canadians over the past year. The Vancouver police department reported “Anti-Asian hate crime incidents rose by 717% from 2019 (12) to 2020 (98).” There are concerns that as global tourism reopens, there could be a drop in Asian tourism or Asian students moving to North America for school because of these incidents.  For Canadian resources to fight anti-Asian hate, access Fight COVID Racism here.

A good reminder that this is not an entirely new phenomenon comes recently from the Washington Post and from a 1982 New York Times article examining the rise of anti-Asian and anti-Japanese sentiment and violence in the U.S. that accompanied Japan’s economic rise and trade frictions with the U.S.  

Everything Else

  • Adm. Phil Davidson with the U.S. Armed Forces estimates that China could invade Taiwan by 2027; previous estimates were 2035. The Admiral made the remarks in testimony to Congress. 
  • Chinese manufacturing and retail have recovered well from the pandemic. Industrial output in January and February was up 35.1 per cent from the same time in 2020. Retail sales were also up 33.8 per cent in January and February this year; January-February 2020 had a 20.5 per cent contraction in retaill.
  • With technological self-reliance a clear goal of the Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), ByteDance is striving to build semiconductor capacity. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) has also announced a $2.35 billion factory in Shenzhen to build chips. The United States government put SMIC on its Entity List in December.
  • Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. may have to sell some of its media assets after pressure from the Chinese government. The group’s media assets include the South China Morning Post. 
  • China’s National Medical Products Administration announced it is removing the requirement for animal testing off of most imported ordinary cosmetics. Some products, including those for children and babies, will still be required to undergo animal testing. 
  • Shefali Kapadia with SupplyChain Dive takes a look at what the confirmation of Katherine Tai as U.S. Trade Representative will mean for China and supply chains. Kapadia notes that one of the early things to watch for is changes to the tariff exclusion process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974; Tai said in confirmation hearings that a review was “very high on my radar.” 
  • According to reports quoted in the Western Standard, Parks Canada is planning to offer services in Mandarin at the birthplace of Dr. Norman Bethune, the Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site in Ontario. 

– Stephany Laverty, 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.