The Canadian envoy to China has fallen victim to a big game – the trade war between the US and China, in which Canada has a secondary role. Political scientist Igor Shatrov, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Modern Ideology Development has commented on a decision by Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to dismiss envoy John McCallum.
This is the first time in Canadian diplomatic history that a prime minister has dismissed an ambassador. “The dismissal disorganized Ottawa’s strategy to overcome tensions with Beijing”, said Colin Robertson, former diplomat and vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. His opinion has been cited by Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
In the publication, he noted that Western allies, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, are closely monitoring Canada’s strategy “because they may be in the same situation”. The expert also acknowledged that Ottawa was at the centre of disagreements between two much more influential players — the United States, which is seeking the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, and China.
“The Canadian government decided to throw the ambassador under the bus. He should be happy with his release from the shackles”, said John Higginbotham, an expert whose diplomatic career included working in Beijing and Hong Kong as quoted by Canadian newspaper Global News. The current crisis in Canada’s relations with China is systematic in nature. Ottawa is vulnerable to both pressure from the US and China, it is deeply rooted in its mentality, the expert noted.
The firing of Canada’s ambassador has also elicited a certain number of comments from media outlets across the globe. They have, in particular, noted that the ambassador had embarrassed the liberal government of Justin Trudeau, saying that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou could come up with serious arguments against her extradition to the United States.
The comments noted inconsistency and vacillation in Justin Trudeau’s position. At first, the PM had no plans to dismiss the ambassador after he apologized for his remarks. In particular, for saying that if Washington didn’t make extradition request, “it would be great for Canada”. The ambassador’s dismissal shows that Canada is faced with the need to balance between Washington and Beijing over the possible extradition of Huawei’s detained executive. Observers have noted that the dismissal of the ambassador was designed so that the United States did not get the impression that Canada was leaning toward China on the issue of extradition. Meanwhile, this decision has ultimately complicated the situation even more for Ottawa, including its relations with China.
“The Canadian ambassador is a little man caught in the wheels of a huge machine, a big game — a trade war between the United States and China”, Igor Shatrov said.
“I believe that the Canadian ambassador was not quite aware of the fact that the stakes in this game were bigger than he thought. That’s why he did not expect such a reaction, such a punishment for his statements. Meanwhile, a certain part of the Canadian leadership, at the level of the prime minister, members of the cabinet, undoubtedly understands what is happening in relations between the United States and China. Naturally, the leadership’s reaction immediately followed, and the ambassador was dismissed. Canadians have become unwitting participants in the situation around Huawei. China is clearly strengthening its position in the international arena, not only as a world economic power but also as a world political power. The United States is applying all sorts of leverage, through a trade war, in particular. In the next few years, the trade war will continue because China intends to defend its position more confidently than before”, the expert noted.
Yang Mian, an expert at the Chinese Institute of Mass Communications believes that the ambassador’s dismissal has dealt a serious blow to Canada’s image.
“The Canadian ambassador expressed his point of view. He told the truth, which caused strong pressure on him in the country, resulting in his dismissal. The Trudeau government had to do this in order to, among other things, defuse the controversy surrounding his statements. On one hand, this is a choice made by the Canadian government under US political pressure. On the other hand, this may be a way for Canada to assert so-called ‘political correctness’. At the same time, the incident has exposed the differences in the Canadian government: many do not agree with the position of the government in the scandal around Meng Wanzhou”.
“The ambassador’s firing can only worsen the foreign policy image of Canada. Canada serves the political interests of the United States, interacting with the United States to curb the development of China’s advanced telecommunications company, thereby restraining China’s continued growth”.