Chinese experts warned on Wednesday that if Canadian officials attempt to seek help from the US in exerting pressure on China at the upcoming G20 summit, it will be futile. And bilateral ties could further worsen, unless Canadian officials stop their wrongful and provocative words and deeds, they said.
As tensions between China and Canada continue to spike, more signs suggest that the deteriorating relations are hindering trade activities and official and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
Through a series of mistakes in matters regarding Huawei, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Ottawa has single-handedly jeopardised what had been a flourishing relationship just a year ago.
In what has been widely seen as the latest sign of souring ties, China on Wednesday temporarily halted imports of all Canadian meat products after some pork samples from Canadian shipments were found to contain residues of ractopamine, a veterinary drug that could cause health issues, and a subsequent Canadian official probe found that many meat exporters had forged certificates.
Asked whether the suspension was related to the case of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecom firm Huawei, Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said it was the Chinese government's responsibility to protect Chinese consumers and urged Canada to take effective measures to rectify the problem.
Geng also reiterated China's stance on Meng's case. "We demand that the Canadian side treat China's concerns seriously and release Meng immediately so she can return to China safely."
The suspension of Canadian meat exports, valued at around $455 million last year, could deal another major blow to Canadian farmers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is reportedly seeking help from US President Donald Trump to pressure China at the G20 in Japan this week.
At a meeting with Trump in Washington last week, Trudeau reportedly asked Trump to speak on his behalf regarding two Canadian citizens arrested in China during his upcoming meeting with President Xi Jinping.
"It proves once again that Canada is just a puppet of the US and has no ability to conduct its own independent diplomacy as a sovereign country," Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations, told the Global Times.
Though Trudeau is also attending the summit, there is no meeting planned between him and Xi. In fact, Canadian officials had reportedly tried to reach out to Chinese officials, including Premier Li Keqiang, as early as January, to no avail.
Responding to a question about Trudeau's meeting with Trump last week, Lu Kang, another spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, pointed out that reports about Trump planning to bring the issue up at the meeting was based on quotes from Canadian officials instead of the US president.
"We note the state of mind of the Canadian leadership on current China-Canada relations. I'd like to repeat that Canada is entirely responsible for the current problems in bilateral relations, and it knows clearly the causes," Lu said.
China-Canada relations, which were on good terms as the two countries strengthened economic and trade ties, began to deteriorate in December 2018, when Canadian authorities arrested Meng at the behest of US officials.
In China, Canada's decision to arrest Meng, who still faces extradition proceedings to the US, is seen as a political maneuver by Trudeau to appease US officials by helping their global crackdown campaign on Huawei, a global leader in 5G technologies, as he desperately tried to repair rocky personal and diplomatic ties with the US under Trump, who had called Trudeau "dishonest and weak."
"While other US allies tried so hard to not get entangled in the China-US trade and technology war, Canada jumped right in. [Trudeau] must have considered the implications and still decided to side with the US, either that or he is foolish," Li said. "Either way, we are at a very low point in China-Canada relations, if not the lowest, all because of [Trudeau's] decision."
Since Meng's arrest, many business activities have been hindered. Apart from Tuesday's suspension of meat imports, Chinese regulators have also halted imports of Canadian canola due to safety issues. In the wake of Meng's arrest in December 2018, Chinese officials in January issued a travel alert to Canada, citing the arbitrary detention of Meng, leading to a sharp drop in the number of Chinese tourists to Canada.
Amid escalating tensions, Chinese authorities also arrested two Canadian citizens on national security grounds and sentenced a Canadian drug trafficker to death.
Though these actions were taken by Chinese officials on legitimate grounds to protect Chinese citizens, "there is no denying" that China has taken relatively tough steps to exert pressure on Canada given the tensions, said Mei Xinyu, an expert with close ties with the Ministry of Commerce. "We must hit Canada hard for its mistakes."
But, so far, there is no sign of course correction on the Canadian side, where authorities appear to be pushing forward Meng's extradition hearing.
Also, some in Canada have sought to meddle in China's internal affairs by peddling unsubstantiated accusations of Hong Kong's amendment to relevant ordinances and educational and training centers in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, drawing harsh criticism and warnings from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.
"All [Canada's mistakes] are rooted in deep ideological bias toward China," Wang Yiwei, a professor at the Renmin University of China's School of International Relations, told the Global Times.
"I don't see how things could improve if they don't change that. I think it could get worse," he said.
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