The only effective way to reach out to totalitarian-leaning countries like China is not through government-to-government links but citizen-to-citizen links. Making those links a permanent part of foreign relations, especially during political crises, would be a winning approach for Canada, says a Globe and Mail opinion article on how Canada to protect its national interest in a world without allies.
The article sheds light on how Canada finds itself between a lockup and hard place with China as it tries to advance its Liberal democratic values. Its efforts to find common ground with the totalitarian dictatorship has proved fruitless. After China’s initial demand for an extradition treaty with Canada and Xi’s claim for a permanent president, Canada’s hope for China’s gradual transitioning into a democratic country crushed. Meng Wanzhou’s arrest has deteriorated Canada’s relationship with China, creating a diplomatic and political crisis. However, in facing an abusive totalitarian regime and an emboldened China, Canada gained little support from its Western allies. With the US leading the national-populist movements and with authoritarian tide sweeping across the globe, Canada finds itself alone in the world.
The article suggests that an effective way to solve the escalating crisis with China is by skipping the government and going for the people. Both Conservative and Liberal governments have generally got this relationship backward, it says: “They’ve pursued friendly photo-op relationships with these countries’ leaders, no matter how distasteful they may be, in hopes of gaining votes from ethnic communities.”
“As a country of diasporas, Canada has two million citizens with family ties to China, and by drawing upon the cultural knowledge and connections of Chinese citizens and their families, they can help change the leadership of homelands that have gone wrong,” says the article.
However, it is an implausible suggestion that cannot bear scrutiny. Currently, WeChat, the social media platform, has played an essential role in building ties between overseas Chinese with their friends and families in China. However, as the Chinese censorship machine reaches every corner of the platform, any sensitive political information is blocked or deleted.
The censorship machine has gone into the highest gear during the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. Keywords or pictures raising eyebrows of the authority has become invisible to the group members in China, even without senders’ knowledge. Despite condemnations from the international community, the Chinese government has no intention to stop, claiming the censorship practices are crucial to the country’s “internet sovereignty” and promoting it as a model for other authoritarian governments to follow.
As intolerant China tightens its controls and expands its influence overseas, many Chinese Canadians holding opposing political opinions feel compelled to hold their tongues. According to Yaqui Wang, a China researcher at Human Right Watch, those who are outraged by the human rights abuse in their native country are reluctant to be critical about China, worrying that it will hurt their job prospects and business opportunities and fearing for the safety of their family members in China. A few Canadian based news outlets that refuse to bend to the communist party’s pressure – this paper included, face advertising boycott from the local business community, which is demanded by the Chinese government.
With most of two million Chinese immigrants living in silence and the few bold activists’ hands tied and voice gagged, expecting Canadian Chinese diaspora to help change the leadership in their home country is delusional. Rights activists call for Canadian authorities’ action and address immigrants’ fears. Without Canadian leaders’ intervention, transmitting democracy to China through citizens is empty talk.
我们鼓励所有读者在我们的文章和博客上分享意见。We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. Visit the FAQ page for more information.