KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) -- It is not often that a country’s ambassadorial changes make headlines around the world. However, the revelation on Jan. 27 that Canada had effectively sacked its Chinese Ambassador has reverberated across the globe.
It was the latest move in one of the biggest diplomatic spats of recent times, and it is a situation which starkly highlights the many vast differences that exist between the communist regime in China and the rest of the free world.
In announcing the departure of John McCallum, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t mince his words. “Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum's resignation as Canada's ambassador to China,” he said, making it crystal clear that if had he not resigned, then he would have been fired.
No official reason for his departure has been given by the Canadian government, but few observers are in any doubt as to why McCallum has gone.
On Tuesday of last week, McCallum publicly criticized the U.S. extradition request for Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Finance Officer at the Chinese tech company Huawei. Ms. Meng is accused by the U.S. Government of breaking international sanctions against Iran. She was arrested in Canada in December and is currently out on bail.
Despite Huawei’s repeated insistence that it does not have any official links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the CCP political apparatus has been up in arms at Meng’s arrest.
There have been swathes of China’s state media coverage condemning her arrest as an attack on the sanctity of China, the same sort of faux-nationalism the CCP always tries to ratchet up whenever any Chinese persons get into trouble overseas.
McCallum, who held several ministerial positions before being appointed to the role of Chinese Ambassador in March 2017 and moving to Beijing, now appears to have fallen victim to this CCP propaganda when he parroted their lines in the Chinese media.
He quickly walked back his comments last Thursday after the rest of the world got wind of them. Yet, only a day later, he doubled down once more in an interview with the Toronto Star, by stating that it would be "great for Canada" if the United States dropped its extradition request.
That was clearly enough for Prime Minister Trudeau, and understandably so. If your Ambassador to a county seems to be taking their word over yours on a major diplomatic incident like this, he is no longer fit to serve.
As a matter of habit, the CCP-controlled state media leapt on his comments to further justify their faux outrage against the extradition request and subsequent arrest of Meng. China is treating this incident like trench warfare, and the Chinese government is determined to land a few shells on Canada in retaliation for her arrest.
The Chinese Communist Party is not an ordinary national government. It clings to power by means of establishing a climate of fear, stoking nationalist sentiment, and cultivating its reputation as an economic superpower.
In China, companies like Huawei do not rise to the top without close links to the communist regime. Moreover, when one of that number comes under attack, the default reaction of the CCP-controlled media is to paint it as an attack on all of China.
As a result, it is impossible for China to follow the norms of international law at times like these, while operating under CCP authoritarianism. National pride calls for retaliation and retribution at all costs and that is exactly what the communist regime has delivered.
One poor Canadian citizen, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, arrested in 2014, has seen his already excessive 15-year jail sentence for drug smuggling, a charge he flatly denies, increased to the death penalty.
There was little or no reason given for the increase, with his sudden and conspicuous retrial only lasting a day. The increased sentence was announced within an hour of its conclusion. All of this strongly suggests that the main reason was his nationality.
One Chinese law expert, Donald Clarke from George Washington University, described the death sentence handed down to Schellenberg as "an unprecedented step in China's diplomacy".
"I have seen cases I considered unjust before, but I cannot recall a previous case that looked so clearly unconnected to the defendant's guilt or innocence," he told the BBC.
Two other Canadians, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and businessman Michael Spavor have also been arbitrarily detained on the spurious charge of "harming national security."
China has flatly denied that these cases are related to Meng’s arrest in Canada, but it is pretty obvious to everyone else that this is little more than a case of tit-for-tat arrests. It’s a genuine case of: You arrest one of us and we’ll arrest two of you. Oh, and if you dare to challenge us, we will kill one of yours as well!
This is the standard of contempt which the CCP holds towards the rest of the world, and for most of the experienced China observers, it comes as no surprise.
The question is: “How should Canada respond?” When faced with a rogue Ambassador in China, Trudeau has proven himself to be a strong and decisive leader by sacking him almost instantly.
How should he react to a supposed diplomatic ally, as China still is to Canada, arbitrarily arresting and murdering Canadian citizens merely because Canada has lawfully executed an international arrest warrant against one Chinese citizen, which it was legally obliged to do under international law?
The Canadian government has issued some strongly worded statements since this whole diplomatic spat began. That isn’t going to help Robert Schellenberg or, for that matter, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, nor will they help the next Canadian citizen that China decides must be punished for their government’s adherence to international norms.
They could raise the issue in the United Nations, but the Chinese Communist Party has a veto there, despite the stipulations of the UN Charter that deny them the right to veto decisions on issues to which they are a party. Therefore, nothing worthwhile will emerge. They could issue warnings to Canadians against traveling to China, as the Canadian Government is unable to ensure their safety there. They could even work with the US Government to introduce sanctions against relevant members of the Communist regime, but that would be like water off a duck’s back to the CCP.
Trudeau could even show once more that he is a strong leader and make a decision that would be in keeping with his countries liberal values and in the best interests of his people. He could decide to switch Canadian diplomatic recognition from communist China to Taiwan.
In Taiwan, Canada has a free, democratic, and liberal ally on which it can depend. Taiwan would not arbitrarily arrest Canadian citizens without good cause. Furthermore, Taiwan would not sentence them to death to make a political point. It would not seek to bully and humiliate Canadians in the international arena for daring to follow international law.
Taiwan and Canada have much in common and could form a lasting and mutually beneficial diplomatic relationship together.
With the world slowly, but surely opening its eyes to what the communist regime in China is really like and the huge threat it poses to the free world, Canada also has an opportunity to be a trailblazer.
Canada could be the country that starts the push to bring freedom and democracy to Southeast Asia. They could be the country that proves that an authoritarian regime cannot thrive just because it has an abundance of money to use as coercion.
By recognizing Taiwan over China, Canada could be the country that kick-starts real and lasting democratic change throughout this region. They will never have a better opportunity to be a force for freedom and liberty throughout the world, in the manner that a multitude of Canadians believe that they are.