Kinsman: What’s the ultimate objective of Harper’s softer stance on China?

By: /
July 25, 2011
Jeremy Kinsman
Former ambassador to the European Union and high commissioner to Britain

It’s not about “softer” but about being rational. John Baird just said it: Canadian foreign policy must represent our interests AND our values; we do both simultaneously. Recognizing China as a “strategic partner” is facing economic reality. That China is pivotal to key outcomes in world affairs merits more engagement, not less.

But diplomacy depends on consistency. China must see Canada as being loyal to our values. While not trying to export our beliefs to China, consistency insists we communicate support for the legitimacy of universal human rights defence in China. It is not interference. China signed the relevant international covenants. Havel’s “venerable tradition of international solidarity” applies.

Strategic partnership provides Canada with enough political capital to remind the Chinese in private their behaviour necessarily influences the political climate. But on HOW we communicate, to be taken seriously, we must avoid megaphone diplomacy aimed at voters back home.