Stacked with contentious issues . . .
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi held a phone conversation on Tuesday, a first in close to two years. The ministers covered various topics, from Russia’s war in Ukraine to irritants in the bilateral relationship. On Ukraine, Minister Joly emphasized that the world is watching China’s “actions and next steps” to the crisis. Minister Wang clarified China’s position and hope for a ceasefire and a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Minister Joly raised other issues in the bilateral relationship, from human rights violations in Xinjiang to other “consular matters.” Wang suggested that Canada “takes a positive view of China and pursue a prudent and pragmatic China policy.”
Icebreaker phone call . . .
Canada and China have had difficult relations since 2018, at least at the political level, following the arrests of Meng Wanzhou and the “two Michaels.” While both countries agree on the damage done to the relationship, they blame each other for the deterioration. Despite this, the two foreign ministers discussed avenues of collaboration between the two countries on areas of mutual interest. They ended their call by agreeing to keep the communication channels open. While this “icebreaker” phone call is a welcome and positive first step in rebuilding ties, time will tell about its actual impact.
Irritants remain in the bilateral relationship . . .
While there are various areas where Canada and China can collaborate, Ottawa will have to manage its relations with Beijing carefully. Despite calls to diversify its exports to other Asian markets, China will remain an important market and partner for many Canadian companies. And Canada will have to deal with China on many issues beyond trade, from Beijing’s actions regarding Russia and Ukraine and its competition with the U.S. to the situation in the Taiwan Strait and Hong Kong. The Canada-China diplomatic relationship is expected to remain icy in the near term, but direct communication between high-level ministers, such as the call this week between Ministers Joly and Wang, will be vital in the longer term.
- Angus Reid Institute: Three-in-five Canadians want less trade with China, but many express concern about the economic costs of taking a stand
- The Diplomat: Why do many Chinese sympathize with Russia in the Ukraine conflict?
- Global News: Canada cold shoulders China over interest to join Pacific Rim trading bloc