After Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan sparked outrage within the Chinese government and escalated international tensions, a group of Canadian parliamentarians are planning their own Taiwanese trip.
The visit, in the works since last spring, is planned for early October according to the chair of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group, Jody Sgro.
The eight government representatives planning to make the trip are all members of both the Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group and the standing committee on international trade.
Canadian visits to Taiwan are not unusual. According to Sgro, Canadian representatives have visited Taiwan as much as twice a year in the past but stopped because of the pandemic. As normal as these visits may have been, however, in the context of Pelosi’s provocation they have taken on a new significance.
China considers the island of Taiwan an inalienable part of its territory, and Pelosi’s recognition of Taipei with a visit was an affront to China. Three separate Chinese ministries issued nine warnings to Pelosi before she visited—all of which she ignored.
Pelosi dressed up her reckless provocation in the guise of “supporting democracy,” but such lofty-sounding language is blatant hypocrisy. The U.S.A. supported the KMT dictatorship in Taiwan for years, and today supports oppressive regimes such as the Saudi monarchy. It clearly cares nothing for democracy. A more realistic explanation for the trip is the economic one: Taiwan produces the bulk of the world’s microchips and is the world’s second-biggest manufacturer of semiconductors, and the U.S.A. wants to secure its supply of these.
And as an added bonus, Pelosi gets to look tough by “standing up” to China and hopefully give a boost to her flagging popularity at home. Beijing could not let this affront pass unanswered. It responded by encircling Taiwan and conducting live-fire military drills.
As was the case with Pelosi’s visit, the Canadian trip has nothing to do with “freedom” or “democracy”. Taiwan is Canada’s 13th-largest trading partner and fifth-largest in Asia. Sgro has openly talked about the economic motivations for the trip: “It’s about trade, it’s about friendship, it’s about opportunities for Canada, in that whole Asia Pacific region.” She added, “This is part of an ongoing effort for us to ensure that the doors are open for Canadian companies wherever there’s trade opportunity.”
Ever the faithful lapdog of American imperialism, however, Canadian officials have also taken the opportunity to echo Pelosi’s hypocrisy about democracy and antagonize China. Sgro has also said, “Democracy is a cherished and an important part of what we all live in every day. We need to protect other countries that have fought for their freedom and for their democracy.” She added, “So, yes, you know, I’m trying to be diplomatic in my comments, but clearly I’m proud that Canada is standing up to China as well. And I think that pushback is very important.”
Liberal MP John McKay, who has visited Taiwan several times under the banner of the friendship group, has also expressed his support for the visit. “My view is that China is trying to bully Taiwan and indirectly bully the rest of us on a false premise that Taiwan is part of China,” McKay said. “That is nonsense. The Taiwanese have repeatedly expressed their desire to be an independent country and have behaved in an exemplary fashion. Canada should do everything to encourage Taiwan to express its democratic values. This parliamentary trip will encourage that.”
Similarly, NDP MP Brian Masse said that Canadians “must support other democracies that have fought for their rights and freedoms.” This cover for imperialist sabre-rattling is especially shameful coming from the NDP. All this talk about “democracy” in Taiwan and “standing up” to China by officials in the U.S. and Canada is simply a hypocritical smokescreen to cover their real intentions—to weaken their rival China and secure access to an important market.
Like the vast majority of the world, the Canadian government follows the One China policy. It recognizes Beijing officially, not Taipei, and maintains only informal diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese government. And when it judges it to be advantageous, the Canadian government is more than happy to warm up to China, as it tried to do in 2017 when there was talk of extending NAFTA Chapter 11 rights to China. Subsequently the Governor General visited China and the two countries pledged to enhance cooperation. Such attempts broke down, however, and Canadian-Chinese relations hit their nadir with the years-long standoff over the extradition case of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. In the capitalist competition between the U.S.A. and China, the Canadian government came down on the side of the United States.
But Canada doesn’t have the clout the U.S. has to antagonize China and get away with it.
China is now warning Canada of the consequences if this visit takes place. “China firmly opposes any form of official exchanges between the Taiwan region and countries having diplomatic relations with China,” the Chinese embassy said in a statement. “China will take resolute and forceful measures against any country that attempts to interfere or infringe upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response to questions about the visit have been evasive. He avoided responsibility, emphasizing that the standing committee planning the visit is independent from Parliament, but also added that, “There are significant reflections going on right now.” He went on: “We will ensure that the parliamentarians making the decision to travel or not will be done with all the reflections of the consequences and the impacts of it.” The House of Commons has not yet approved the committee’s budget for the trip.
In the face of potential Chinese retribution, Canada may yet back down. A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Melanie Joly took a defensive stance in response to the Chinese embassy’s statement, saying, “The travel of parliamentarians should not be used as a pretext for escalation or aggressive military and economic actions.” The spokesperson added, “We encourage all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint and maintain open lines of communication to prevent misunderstanding.”
Gone is the earlier grandstanding about “democracy” and “freedom.” Like loyal pets, Canadian officials had followed in Pelosi’s footsteps, scolding China about democracy. Now they’re in a position where they have to walk back their belligerent statements about “standing up” to China.
Such reckless conflicts between imperialist powers will only increase as capitalism decays and competition for markets and to redivide the world ramps up. It is not up to American or Canadian imperialism to determine Taiwan’s fate. That is a task for the people of Taiwan themselves. It’s up to the Canadian working class to play its part in ending this imperialist inanity by overthrowing its own ruling class with socialist revolution.