Right on

Journalist David Akin, writing on his personal blog, notes that the facts do not bear out Hu Jintao’s rebuke to Prime Minister Harper.

With all due respect, Premier Wen, when you rebuke our prime minister, you rebuke all 30 million of us – Liberal, Conservative, or NDP — whether we voted for Harper or not.

Canadians are a polite and patient people, Premier Wen, and we have some tremendous social problems of our own that we are labouring to resolve. We do that in a messy, noisy way called democracy. You don’t, buddy.

And, by the way, when are you going to pull your spies out of our country? Those spies are costing us a billion dollars a month! Frankly, that ticks me off that you send your security agents into a country that’s stood by you for 40 years.

Now, I don’t want readers of this blog to mistake this for an apology for the current Conservative government or an attack on earlier Liberal governments…  This is instead, a response, to an unwarranted slight on the government of my country, of Canada, by a country that, it seems to me, has no moral grounds for such a public rebuke of the prime minister of all 30 million of us.

…Canada has had diplomatic relations with China for — let me check — why 40 years now! No other Western country can say that. As former Liberal foreign affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew noted today, even the arch-Conservative John Diefenbaker shipped wheat to China when that country was starving in the 50s. Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau stuck with China in the 1970s when everyone else in the West would demonize the country. Canadian newspapers were among the first to put their journalists here. And the current prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been a strong advocate for supplanting (or supplementing) the G8 with the G20, precisely because he wanted China at the table.

Canada does this because of the 1.2 million Canadians who have origins in this country and because Canada has generally believed that engagement is the best way to achieve social and political change in China.

And yet, when our prime minister travels thousands of kilometres to visit, his Chinese hosts have the gall to embarrass him in a very public way. I’ll tell you something, Premier Wen: There’d be no end of the howling from the media and the opposition in Canada if a Canadian prime minister acted that way toward a guest. It’s just not done where we’re from.

— Akin, David.  “Excuse me for being impertinent but China has no right to be rude to our PM.” On The Hill, 03 December 2009. [Emphasis is mine.]

I have one minor quibble, as Britain was the first Western nation to recognise the PRC, in 1949; followed, I think, by the Netherlands.  It certainly wasn’t Canada.

That aside, this is exactly the sort of nonpartisan attitude that should be adopted when dealing with totalitarian states.  You can treat our PM like crap and we aren’t about to launch a trade war over it, but you’re not fooling anyone into believing that we deserve it.

Mao Zedong and his successors slaughtered somewhere between 40 and 70 million of their countrymen though poor economic policies and social projects like the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward.  That is an order of magnitude more bloody-minded than anything Canada has perpetrated on her own sons and daughters.  The loss of 40 million Canadians at any point in our history (including today) would have extinguished us as a nation; leaving a negative integer.

We are also somewhat reluctant to engage in what appears to be large-scale, government-sanctioned industrial espionage against major trading partners.  That sort of thing sends a strong message that maybe a nation isn’t as friendly and benign as it pretends to be.

Read the whole of Mr. Akin’s opinion piece; it’s worth it.

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