Why dealing with China requires a more sophisticated tack than some are demanding

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Canada should lay stronger economic foundations for the time when current tensions clear

Guy Saint-Jacques, former Canadian ambassador to China

Like it or not, Chinese demand has helped offset the negative effects of a terrible recession for the second time in two decades.

China’s economic power isn’t a reason to ignore what is happening in Xinjiang, nor should it stand in the way of doing whatever it takes to liberate innocent Canadian citizens from arbitrary confinement. But it does demand respect, arguing in favour of a sophisticated diplomatic strategy that involves other countries, rather than the diplomatic equivalent of kamikaze strikes that would hurt Canada more than they would China.

“Canada and its allies have woken up to China’s bullying tactics and coercive diplomacy, and together should seek to impress on China that their use will threaten its access to markets,” Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said in a commentary published by the C.D. Howe Institute on Jan. 6.

At the same time, Canada should continue to work on “concrete areas of co-operation … to lay stronger economic foundations in anticipation of days when current tensions clear,” said Saint-Jacques, citing the environment as one challenge that transcends current diplomatic troubles and represents an economic opportunity that Canada and China can maximize by helping each other.

Despite China’s propaganda and bullying, Canada can work with the country in a way that serves our interests. Photo by Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images files

Canpotex makes Saint-Jacques’ point.

The climate-change debate tends to focus on fossil fuels, but there is also an important agricultural component. Renewable energy and electric vehicles will flatten the demand curve for oil, but an increasingly wealthier global population will consume more food, so farmers will be under pressure to produce more on the land that’s currently available. That likely means increased demand for potash and other fertilizers, which explains why Canpotex was on pace to hit one of its best years ever despite the pandemic.

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