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Middle Powers during Great Power Transitions: China's Rise and the Future of Canada-US Relations

Gilley, Bruce

International Journal, June 2011, Vol.66(2), pp.245-264 [Periódico revisado por pares]

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  • Título:
    Middle Powers during Great Power Transitions: China's Rise and the Future of Canada-US Relations
  • Autor: Gilley, Bruce
  • Assuntos: History & Archaeology ; International Relations
  • É parte de: International Journal, June 2011, Vol.66(2), pp.245-264
  • Descrição: Beijing has long treated Canada with the warm condescension that it usually reserves for weak client states. Norman Bethune, the card-carrying Montreal doctor whose revolutionary fervour led him to forget basic medical procedures and poison himself while saving Communist party members in China (and refusing to treat injured Nationalist soldiers), resonates in China because he symbolizes this essentially kow-towing tributary ideal. Another Canadian "friend of China," Chester Ronning, Canada's ambassador to China during the Chinese civil war, is shown in a 1980 National Film Board documentary regaling premier Zhou Enlai in Chinese with talk of his fried rice during a 1971 meeting in Beijing.2' Zhu Rongji's description of Canada as China's "best friend" in 1998 revealed a view that Canada could become part of the Chinese Communist party's global "united front." But Beijing's policies are strictly realist in attempting to pry Canada away from the US. And Canada, as a result, has no incentives to bandwagon with Beijing, as Australia has found. A simple prediction, based on the above, would be that the affinities in interests and ideas between Canada and the US would be rising relative to those between Canada and China as a result of the uncertainties about the possibly disruptive effects of China's rise. A simple way to test this is to examine United Nations general assembly voting behaviour.26 As expected, during the "second" Cold War after China had taken its UN seat in 1972, Canada consistently voted more similarly to the US than to China. The Canada-US affinity declined steeply however, and from 1986 onwards Canada began to vote more similarly to China than to the US. This closer affinity to China remained consistent until 2009 when Canada again voted more similarly to the US than to China for the first time in 24 years. In 2010, Canada again voted more similarly to the US, suggesting a fundamental shift. This is in part due to Canada distancing itself from the raft of annual resolutions in favour of Palestinian claims to which it previously assented or abstained. But the deeper undercurrent is the rise of China as a more assertive illiberal power. For instance, since 2006, Beijing has brought the annual resolution on human rights in Myanmar to a vote rather than allow it to pass without a vote (Beijing votes "no" and Canada and the US both vote "yes.") The Myanmar example shows that when China plays a disruptive role, it brings Canada and the US into greater de facto alliance, in Asia and globally. Arguments that Canada should bandwagon with China and abandon its pressures on the Myanmar regime in favour of ASEAN-style "engagement" have not won support in Canada because they would run counter to Canadian preferences, identities, and interests.27 A reasonable prediction would be that China's rise will make the reconvergence of Canada- U S policies as reflected in United Nations voting enduring. Global human rights concerns, for instance, have risen on the agenda of all political parties in Canada. In a 2011 poll, 66 percent of Canadians believed that promoting human rights should be a major priority for the government in Asia and 57 percent that promoting democracy should be a major priority.28 This is a new departure for Canada, which, for most of its postwar history, operated a "largely human-rights -blind foreign policy" even if it defended liberal principles in general.29 [Pierre Elliott Trudeau] described the military repression of Poland's Solidarity movement in 1981 as a "positive step" that would prevent the movement from making "excessive demands," but in the post-Cold War period, human rights concerns rose quickly, symbolized by the opposition Liberal's attack on a $100 million loan to China after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre as "an absolute disgrace."30
  • Idioma: Inglês

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