Copeland: What’s the ultimate objective of Harper’s softer stance on China?
Former diplomat; research fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute
With the dynamic centre of the global political shifting rapidly back to the Asia Pacific region, it is a relief to see the Government of Canada moving to position itself on the right side of history.
But make no mistake, this country is starting from way behind the curve. By my reckoning, we have been losing ground to the competition in (re)emerging Asia since Canada’s disastrous Year of Asia Pacific in 1997. At that time, our best laid plans for advancing Canadian interests across several broad fronts dissolved in a cloud of pepper spray at the APEC Summit in Vancouver, an event which was itself largely hijacked by growing fears over the spreading Asian financial crisis.
PM Chretien tried to reverse direction with his Team Canada visits in the second half of the 90s, but our net position kept sliding.
In the case of China, that slide turned into a cascade with the election in 2006 of the Conservative government, who appeared ready to stop at nothing to secure China’s antipathy.
In that they succeeded.
Five years on, a more confident – and less ideologically predisposed? – government seems to have turned the corner and is ready to get this critical bilateral relationship back on track.
Better late than never.