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

By: /
25 July, 2011
By: Paul Quirk
Phil Lind Chair in US Politics and Representation, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia

In an old joke, a farmer whacks his supposedly obedient mule over the head with a two-by-four and explains, “First, you have to get his attention.”  Canada needs a strong relationship with China for many reasons, of which only the most obvious is China’s increasing role as a market for Canadian exports.   The interesting question is what got the government’s attention.

A major factor has been the lesson of recent developments in the United States.  Above all, the Americans’ current display of institutional incapacity in dealing with long-term budget deficits and the debt limit—with partisan brinkmanship carried right to the edge of economic catastrophe—has demonstrated the huge risks of having too many eggs in the American basket.  The era of American economic and political leadership in the world may be drawing to an end. Mr. Harper is moving some of Canada’s eggs to the China basket.

Before you click away, we’d like to ask you for a favour … 


Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

At Open Canada, we believe this must change. If anything, the pandemic has taught us we can’t afford to ignore the changing world. What’s more, we believe, most Canadians don’t want to. Many of us, after all, come from somewhere else and have connections that reach around the world.

Our mission is to build a conversation that involves everyone — not just politicians, academics and policy makers. We need your help to do so. Your support helps us find stories and pay writers to tell them. It helps us grow that conversation. It helps us encourage more Canadians to play an active role in shaping our country’s place in the world.

Become a Supporter