This Monday, our esteemed Prime Minister, a famed explorer (of oil fields), returned from his voyage to China, where CBC reports that he “danc[ed] with the dragon.” No, you aren’t mistaken—that is indeed a mildly racist way to describe a diplomatic meeting with Chinese officials. Back to the matter at hand, Harper reports that he had a great time on his trip. He believes it was a productive visit.
Harper asserts that he advances the economic relationship between Canada and China each time he visits the country. This time, for example, he signed a deal that will open new markets for British Columbia cherries and Quebec blueberries. He also met with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, and announced that a Chinese currency hub will open in Canada. I don’t know what that means, but China already owns us, so I suppose it doesn’t matter.
After all the life-changing news about berries, it’s hard to imagine that Harper’s trip was more than an economic mission. However, he claims to have insisted that “fundamental human values” be “on the table” when speaking with Chinese officials. In a series of closed-door meetings, Harper says he raised issues of “human rights, governance, and minority rights” with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Can he prove that he raised any of these topics, or that there was any substantive dialogue about them? No. Although he is different from his Chinese contemporaries, it seems that we Canadians have to trust our dictator’s word.
To his credit, The CBC writes that Harper feels he “led the dance” at some points. In this scenario, we can imagine this means that our valiant leader corrected the Chinese leadership when they mispronounced his name…for the fifth time. Perhaps our majestic emperor can find solace in knowing that he forced Chinese officials to conform to one of his Canadian traditions: closed-door meetings. For this, we must give him credit.
Media coverage of Harper’s trip focuses on two things: what Harper said he did (talk about human values), and what he actually did (meet business leaders). Should we judge this man by his words or by his actions? If we do the latter, the content of his conversations with Chinese officials is absolutely meaningless. China can violate human rights, detain Canadians on spying charges, and hack Canadian government computer networks with impunity. In response, Canada will sign foreign investment deals that give Chinese companies an all-access backstage pass to Canada, and which let them challenge Canadian laws on Canadian soil. All we ask is for the right to visit China, where we can hold a few press conferences in which we proclaim victory for having ineffectually voiced our opinions about Chinese domestic policy. On that note, is it surprising that Canada and China get along? Chinese leadership gets what it wants and Canadian leadership takes pleasure in servitude. It’s all smiles on the surface, but it’s hard to argue that this is a healthy relationship.