China’s dismal human rights record and its growing cyber spying threat have led Canadians increasingly concerned about strengthening business and investment ties with China. Despite opinion polls show that half Canadians oppose free trade with China, Trudeau’s government increasingly sets its sight on the country’s wealth and the vast market, willing to take the business opportunity with China to the next level. However, courting relationships with billionaires from an authoritarian state will inevitably allow China’ growing political influence to encroach into Canada.
At the time the American has elected a president who vowed to set up trade barriers with China, Trudeau, urged by China’s billionaires through meetings and fundraisers, has committed to launch exploratory free-trade talks with China. In less than two months, Trudeau has met with China’s entrepreneur club twice, discussing free-trade opportunities with China’s most powerful business leaders.
Forging ties with China may bring huge economic gains to Canada, as the time when Canada’s weak economy desperately seeks an influx of global capital, and when Liberals’ infrastructure project urgently desires private investments. Apparently, China’s massive outflow of capitals – amid distrusted stock markets and volatile Chinese currency -- has deeply catered to the economic needs of Trudeau’s growth plan.
“From Mr. Trudeau’s point of view, what the real substance is ‘let’s get the free trade going and see our economic bottom line show signs of improvement’ – preferably before the next election,” said Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat in China based at Brock University.
Trudeau’s effort to court China seems to have borne fruit. Chinese and Canadian firms signed 56 deals worth more than $1.2 billion in Sept. And according to the Globe report, just weeks after a $1500 cash for access fundraiser attended by Trudeau at the mansion of a wealthy Chinese Canadian business executive in May, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and the University of Montreal Faculty of Law received $1-million donations from wealthy business man Zhang Bin and a partner.
But Mr. Zhang, the president of the China Cultural Industry Association and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is a force for the spread of Chinese influence. Meanwhile, at least four representatives of the ruling Communist Party and multimillionaire Chinese-Canadian business executives with close ties to China’s regime attended the event, and at least three people at the event were senior apparatchiks in Chinese state-run organizations whose purpose is to build China’s influence around the world.
“Certainly, there is an overall strategy on the part of the government of China to try to gain influence [with] critical Canadian decision-makers. This kind of interaction clearly serves that purpose,” Mr. Burton said. “It is part of an overall co-ordinated strategy to try to enhance influence here.”
Under growing China’s influence, Trudeau government has taken a coldly realistic approach to deal with China, leaving human rights concerns superficial. According to human rights organizations, the Liberal government under Trudeau is meeting far more frequently with business and trade groups from China, giving rise to complaints that Trudeau has more time for China’s business elites than them.
“Visiting billionaires club gets more political access,” says the organization.
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