Throughout history, more powerful nations have preyed on smaller ones, as is now being demonstrated by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Yet for those outside Europe, China’s economic power makes it a far more formidable threat to democracy than neo-tsarist Russia; Russia’s GDP is smaller than that of Canada or Australia’s, and barely a 10th of China’s.
Resource-rich countries are particularly alluring to China. As in imperial times, China’s goal is not to replicate the crude imperialism of the European, or even the American, type, but to create vassal states — subordinate countries that rule themselves but are expected to kowtow on command. As imperial mandarins did centuries ago, China’s current bid for global pre-eminence requires the subtle subvention of the political class.
In Canada, this approach extends to backing political candidates, largely members of the Liberal party, leading to repeated charges of “meddling” in parliamentary races. One well-connected Chinese tycoon sent $1 million to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, even suggesting building a statue of the former prime minister and Mao Zedong at the University of Montreal.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, notes a Global News article, was informed by Canada’s intelligence services of these activities years ago, but it seems that conducting a thorough investigation is not exactly a priority for his government. “The longer he waits, the more he looks like he has something to hide,” suggested a column in the usually pro-Liberal Toronto Star.
Much the same process has taken place in resource-rich Australia, which in 2022 sent as many exports to China as Japan, the United States, India and South Korea combined. China sought to influence top Australian politicians, including former trade minister Andrew Robb, who negotiated a trade pact with China and then reportedly received a consulting contract worth AU$880,000 annually from a Chinese company.
Meanwhile, Sam Dastyari, a key leader of the centre-left Labor party and a supporter of Chinese expansion in Southeast Asia, was forced to resign after reportedly tipping off a Chinese businessman and political donor that Australian intelligence authorities were likely monitoring his phone.
In the United States, too, China has placed agents close to powerful political figures in Congress, while President Joe Biden’s own family appears to have benefited from close business ties with Beijing. In 2019, he minimized the Chinese threat by claiming, incredibly, that, “You know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”
Read the rest of this piece at National Post.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.