The Dragon vs the Kangaroo and the Beaver

1) The head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation pulls few punches short of actually naming the People’s Republic of China. ‘Twould be nice if his Canadian counterpart, the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) would speak so frankly but our current Liberal government would never permit that (see also the end of this section of the post):

Australia spy chief warns of “unprecedented” foreign espionage threat [actually counter-spy chief]

Australia is under an “unprecedented” threat of foreign espionage and interference, one of the country’s most senior spy chiefs said in a rare speech, citing the case of a “sleeper agent” who spent years building business links

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Director-General Mike Burgess said several nations were working hard to influence lawmakers, government officials, media figures, business leaders and academics.

“The level of threat we face from foreign espionage and interference activities is currently unprecedented,” Burgess said at ASIO headquarters in Canberra on Monday [Feb. 24] evening as he unveiled the agency’s annual threat assessment.

“It is higher now, than it was at the height of the Cold War.”

Burgess did not identify the countries infiltrating Australia, a staunch ally of the United States, though analysts said it was a thinly veiled outing of China [emphasis added].

“It’s very reasonable to assume that China was the country in question,” said Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College, Australian National University.

ASIO is Australia’s domestic intelligence agency.

Reuters reported in September that Australia’s intelligence agencies concluded China was responsible for a cyber-attack on the Australian parliament and three largest political parties just months before a general election in May 2019.

China, which is Australia’s largest trading partner, has denied responsibility for the attack. Australia decided not to reveal the identity of the attackers in order to protect its trading relationship with China, sources familiar with the decision told Reuters in September.

“I don’t care what country it is we’re talking about, whether it’s China or Russia or Iran – if people pose a threat to our country, they will be dealt with according to the level of that threat,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday when asked about China.


Burgess said Australia was being targeted in part because of its strategic position and alliances and its leadership in science and technology.

He said the sleeper agent from an unnamed country [guess which] laid dormant for several years, building business and community links before he started to supply information about expatriate dissidents. That information, Burgess said, was used to harass the dissidents in Australia and their relatives overseas.

Visiting academics and scientists had been infiltrating universities to collect intelligence [note this post: “See What China is up to at US Universities“], while foreign spies had entered Australia with the intention of setting up sophisticated hacking infrastructure, he added.

“The intent is to engineer fundamental shifts in Australia’s position in the world, not just to collect intelligence or use us as a potential ‘back-door’ into our allies and partners,” he said.

Australia’s leading universities last year agreed to more transparency in financial dealings with other countries and to share cyber intelligence with security agencies in a bid to curb foreign interference…

See what happened in 2010 to then-director of CSIS, Dick Fadden, when he dared mention China’s foreign influence activities in Canada; he only kept his job because the government of the day was Conservative:

Some politicians under foreign sway: CSIS

CSIS comments anger Chinese community

2) Certainly Canadian Prof. Charles Burton (see end of the quote) pulled no punches here:

Continuing to do nothing will not deter China: Charles Burton’s Remarks to the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations

By Charles Burton, February 25, 2020

The following remarks were prepared by MLI Senior Fellow Charles Burton as evidence to present before the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations meeting which convened on February 24, 2020. The full video of those proceedings, including Burton’s remarks, is available here. 

Good morning. It is such an honour for me to be invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations.

I have read all the evidence from the Committee’s meetings numbers 3, 4 and 5 that were sent to me by your Clerk of the Committee. All of this evidence was given by senior Canadian Government civil servants explaining to the Committee how they implement Canadian government policy.

This morning I would like to highlight important factors in the Canada-China relationship that I was disappointed to see omitted in the earlier evidence, assertions made that I interpret differently, and, finally, some recommendations that I have for the Government of Canada on how to much more effectively further Canada’s interests in our relations with China.

Let me say, first of all, that as is the case for many Canadian families, Chinese, not English or French, is the language of my home. In my youth, I read a lot of classical Chinese texts in their original Chinese. More than 40 years ago, I had the extraordinary privilege of being admitted into the History of Ancient Chinese Thought Program in the Department of Philosophy at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Because of this, I was taken aback by something I read in the evidence that the Committee was given by a senior Canadian Government official who said, and I quote, the Chinese “place an importance on the values of collectivism and harmony, owing to a Confucian heritage. Understanding the extent to which China values unity and the needs of society at large, rather than freedom of individual choice…we just have to understand that. That’s where they’re coming from” and elaborated later as “some elements of collectivism and harmony are at odds with individual rights. They’re different.”

Let me point out, this assertion by our Ambassador is consistent with the official propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party under General-Secretary Xi Jinping. The CCP upholds its political legitimacy by claiming that China’s traditional culture demands non-democratic single Party autocratic rule in this modern age.

I could not disagree more with this interpretation, and certainly it is utterly refuted by the vibrant democracies based on respect for human rights and rule of law existing today in Taiwan and South Korea.

But the troubling question for me is this: does Canada’s acceptance that “China values unity and the needs of society at large, rather than freedom of individual choice,” mean that Canada will stand idly by in the face of the horrendous and massive program of cultural genocide against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China who are confined to so-called “re-education camps” where they are not permitted to practice their religion at any time over their years of incarceration?”

The fact is that Canada has put the names of officials from Sudan, Russia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia on our Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (or, Magnitsky Sanction) list. But in sharp contrast, no Chinese officials complicit in the persecution of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Falun Gong and Chinese Christians have been designated. This sends out a strong signal to the PRC regime. That signal is that hostage diplomacy and arbitrary imposition of trade sanctions against Canada is a policy that works. Our lack of any substantive response to this emboldens them to do more of it in future.

The evidence given by our civil servants in the previous meetings of this Committee repeats over and over the formula that Canada’s priority in China relations is “the immediate release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, as well as clemency for Robert Schellenberg.” But in response to questioning, one of the officials indicated “there are two Canadians—Mr. Schellenberg and Mr. Fan Wei—whose charges on the death penalty are public and available.”

So why is the focus on Kovrig, Spavor and Schellenberg, three Canadians of non-Chinese origin, to the exclusion of our Canadians Huseyin Celil and Fan Wei? I judge that is certainly deeply troubling to all Canadians formerly resident in the PRC prior to becoming Canadian citizens and joining our national family.

Do we also thereby tacitly accept the Chinese Government’s claim that persons of Chinese origin in Canada have an obligation of residual loyalty to the Chinese state regardless of their Canadian citizenship? Is that why the serious problem of Chinese state harassment of persons of mainland-Chinese origin in Canada, in gross violation of the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is essentially unaddressed by our Government [emphasis added]?

Let me conclude my remarks by way of providing recommendations that I have for the Government of Canada on how to much more effectively further Canada’s interests in our relations with China

The PRC regime’s flouting of the standards of international diplomacy is, without question, becoming more and more blatant as the years go on. Just last week the Czech Government President’s office acknowledged the leak of a communication received by that office from the PRC Embassy in Prague. In it, the Government of the PRC threatens that if the Speaker of the Czech Parliament travels to Taiwan as planned, then three Czech companies with extensive business in China would be punished, including the famous Petrov piano factory.

So unlike the PRC sanctions against our canola, which is falsely accused of having severe impurities in its dockage, there is no longer any pretense in this Czech case that there is any legitimate basis for the PRC’s threat of trade retaliation if a nation does not comply with the PRC’s political agenda. The companies menaced were chosen simply because they have ties to politically influential people in Prague.

Taiwan has a national Government utterly in control of its territory fully legitimated by a liberal democratic election process. Why shouldn’t the Czech speaker go there?

The fact is, Canada has lost the respect of the Chinese regime by our non-action in response to their outrages against us. It is high time for us to kick back by retaliating especially on China’s persistent illegal imports into Canada of the noxious drug, fentanyl.

Canada’s external trade with China is about 4.7% of our exports at present and is mostly primary commodities which can be sold easily elsewhere in the global market. In the unlikely event China decided to block us from access to their market further in response, the consequences would be highly disruptive to certain sectors. Those sectors would need compensation, but not as severe as some people who speak in support of China would make out.

But Canada’s continuing to do nothing in response to China’s violations of the accepted norms of international diplomacy and trade will not sustain the status quo in our deteriorating relations with China and will certainly not allow us to see movement in achieving the release of Celil, Spavor and Kovrig.

Finally let me conclude by mentioning that a report [full text here] by my friend Anne-Marie Brady to New Zealand’s Parliamentary Inquiry on Foreign Interference details the Chinese Communist Party’s massive scheme of enticing foreign politicians, academics and business people to promote China’s agenda through political lobbying, the media and academia. Besides offering business opportunities or free trips to China, using bribery or honey traps and so on, there are also “consultancies” in which prominent advisers pocket up to $150,000 per annum just for being affiliated with PRC entities [“compradors” as I call them]. So long as the foreign adviser promotes relations with China on PRC terms, the money keeps coming.

Australia’s 2018 Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act should be examined carefully by this Committee. Canada needs to come to terms with Chinese money benefiting Canadian political campaigns and rewarding Canadian politicians and public servants who are seen as “friends of China.”

Mr. Chair, I welcome vigorous and challenging questioning from members of the Committee about what I have said above and anything else I can speak to on Canada-China relations.

There are many very important topics that I have been unable to address in this short statement. I do regret that.

Thank you.

Charles Burton is associate professor of political science at Brock University, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad, and former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing.

Related posts:

With Serious Chicom Links: “Influential Chinese-Canadians paying to attend private fundraisers with Trudeau” [2016]

FBI Director Slams Chi-Spies; Attorney General Slams Huawei

Huawei’s 5G vs Canadian National Security, or, Do Our Cringing Capitalist Compradors Win?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3Ds

16 thoughts on “The Dragon vs the Kangaroo and the Beaver”

  1. Looks like our foreign ministry has really woken up–how much attention will Justin Trudeau’s Liberal gov’t pay? Note final para:

    ‘Diplomats warned federal government about getting too tight with China, committee hears
    Global Affairs documents warn of ‘Beijing’s long-term strategic challenge to Canada’s interests and values’

    Global Affairs briefing papers released by a House of Commons committee show that Canada’s professional foreign service has been warning politicians that it’s dangerous for Ottawa to get too close to China.

    Seven documents were released by a Commons committee on Canada-China relations that was formed in January after opposition parties united to outvote the Liberal minority, which opposed the creation of such a committee.

    The last of the documents is described in a cover letter by Global Affairs’ top civil servant as “a concise diagnostic for the incoming minister of foreign affairs to set the stage for strategic advice on how to approach relations with China”. Deputy Minister Marta Morgan writes that the paper distills the new approach to China, and that “Minister Champagne has called for a new framework for Canada-China relations.”

    That paper, written in October 2019, warns that “while Canada has long framed its China policy through the lens of economic opportunity, it now needs to take account of Beijing’s long-term strategic challenge to Canada’s interests and values.”..

    Outreach has failed

    A timeline of Canadian government engagement with China, also provided by the department to the committee, shows the boom and bust of Canadian engagement with China. The Harper government showed little interest in building ties with China. There were no ministerial-level visits to China in 2015, Stephen Harper’s last year in office.

    2016 saw 13 ministerial visits to China, including a week-long visit by Trudeau himself. Finance Minister Bill Morneau was in the country three times that year.

    The effort continued through 2017 and 2018, with 11 and 10 visits respectively.

    Then came the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018, and shortly afterward, the detention in China of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. In 2019, there was only one visit by Small Business Minister Mary Ng, who spent two days in Dalian in July.
    ‘Inimical to Canada’s interests’

    The Global Affairs analysis says that engagement with China has not produced desired outcomes.

    “Despite recent developments (one formal bilateral meeting between foreign ministers, and the respective nomination of Ambassadors), the Chinese government’s position remains unchanged” when it comes to the detentions of Canadian citizens, the documents say.

    It says “Canada is at a fundamental juncture in its relationship with the PRC” and should seek to work around China rather than to work with it:

    “As the PRC [People’s Republic of China] continues to bolster its assertive foreign policy demeanour, Canada must promote and defend its values in close partnership with like-minded allies and coalitions.

    “The crisis has demonstrated Beijing’s readiness and ability to use aggressive economic and political levers to punish Canada (a pattern observed in China’s other bilateral relationships), and to propagate norms of international relations inimical to Canada’s interests.”..’

    Mark Collins


  2. Further to story below, our government should follow Australia’s lead on this, but PM Trudeau’s government and all their comprador associates/friends will simply not take serious action to expose the PRC’s vast influence/interference activities in this country (including by their embassy and consulates)–within substantial elements of the Overeas Chinese community (votes! votes! votes!) and much more broadly. It seems to me that they have fairly effectively muzzled CSIS from going public:

    “Suspected foreign agents ordered to hand over documents as new unit targets China links

    Chinese government-funded language and culture institutes operating at Australian universities, community groups linked to Beijing’s overseas propaganda arm and organisations looking to harm Australia’s critical infrastructure will be targeted by a new unit set up to enforce the Morrison government’s flagship foreign influence scheme.

    Attorney-General Christian Porter has warned potential agents of foreign powers will be ordered to hand over documents in coming months, and has not ruled out going after agents acting on behalf of foreign embassies in Australia if they have not declared their activities on the foreign influence register…”

    And see this earlier post on Canada’s newish, comprador, ambassador to China:

    “Dominic Barton, or, is Canada’s Goose Being Cooked by the Dragon?”

    Mark Collins


  3. A former Canadian ambassador to China on the problem of those acting of behalf of foreign interests:

    Mark Collins


  4. And see what the Australian gov’t, which already has a law requiring foreign agents to declare themselves, is doing about those who don’t:

    Mark Ottawa


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s