How ignored warnings about China are now hurting Chinese Canadians

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For years, Canadian officials have prioritized trade with China and ignored warnings from Chinese Canadians that the Chinese government presented a serious political and moral challenge, says a Canadian journalist in a new book.

Why is this important: An earlier response from democratic governments could have eased the pressure on Chinese diaspora communities and sent a strong message to Beijing that the export of authoritarianism would not be tolerated.

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Details: In her book “China Unbound: A New World Disorder,” Canadian journalist and former China correspondent Joanna Chiu provides an overview of China’s ties to Canada, Australia, the United States, Greece, Italy, Turkey and Russia.

  • Chiu finds that governments and corporations often oversimplify narratives about China – some Americans, for example, believe the Chinese Communist Party is an unambiguous existential threat, and some Italian politicians say Chinese investments can save the country’s failing economy. The truth is rarely so black and white.

  • Anti-Chinese racism has also been oversimplified and insufficiently understood, Chiu says. Harder policies and confrontational rhetoric about China can make life for members of AAPI communities in Western countries more difficult.

  • But Western leaders might have realized Beijing’s goals sooner if they hadn’t prioritized narrow business interests and instead paid attention when people of Chinese descent living in the west were harassed. , censored and unfairly detained for long periods in China, Chiu argues.

What she says: “Right now there is a narrative that says, if you don’t want to be racist and if you want to avoid further marginalizing the diaspora, then you shouldn’t say or do anything about Beijing’s actions. But that actually erases decades of warnings and various lived experiences of people in the diaspora, ”Chiu told me in an interview.

  • Concern over the fading of prospects for the Chinese diaspora is widespread among scholars studying the Chinese Communist Party’s political interference activities abroad.

  • In her report, Chiu spoke to Chinese students living in Canada who were facing threats from the Chinese security services and Chinese Embassy surveillance, as part of an overseas expansion of the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on the United Front Labor Department.

  • She also spoke with a leader of the Chinese-Canadian community whose years of grassroots work to make the voices of Chinese Canadians heard were drowned out by a new organization with an almost identical name that was supported by the Chinese Embassy and who tended to issue press releases making opposing claims.

When Chiu tried to report threats made against her in Canada for reports she published on Xinjiang, a spokesperson for the Minister of Public Security of Canada told Chiu that the government “takes threats to the safety of people living very seriously. in Canada “and said people should report incidents to local police.

Driving the news: Canada-China relations are on hold after a nearly three-year diplomatic standoff that finally ended just weeks ago with Canada’s release of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, wanted by the United States for charges of fraud; and the subsequent release by China of Canadian political hostages Michael Kovrig and Michel Spavor.

  • Chiu knew Kovrig personally and was relieved at his release. But in an August article, she also criticized Canada’s lack of response when in previous years, Canadian citizens of Chinese descent had been similarly detained in China. “If China had not targeted white Canadians, would Sino-Canadian relations proceed as usual?” Chiu asked.

Background: Anti-Chinese sentiment has increased around the world during the COVID pandemic, but this is nothing new. The Chinese have a long history of mistreatment from Western countries, something Chiu’s family has personally experienced.

  • Chiu’s great-great-great-grandfather arrived in Canada in the 19th century, tricked into believing he could mine for gold, but discovered that he was only allowed to make gold. grueling manual labor for low wages on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

  • Discriminatory immigration policies made him nearly impossible to bring his family with him, so he ended up returning to China with little savings. Chiu herself was born in Hong Kong and came to Canada when she was little.

The bottom line: “What is needed is to place members of the diaspora in positions of influence and power, rather than using them as an excuse to continue as usual with China,” Chiu told Axios.

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