Not a cold war but a cold shoulder 

Nirosh Saravanan // Contributor 
Valeria Kim // Staff Illustrator

Old habits die hard when it comes to foreign policy in this country. Canada finds itself in the middle of  a stand-off between the US and China. Much like a small boat between two ships, Canada will have to find a way to stay afloat while the two pass by. This will depend on both Canada’s relations with the two powers and its relations with other countries. Ultimately, Canada must start to diversify its trade agreements in order to stay competitive in the global field and exert its role as a middle power. 

One thing that has gotten in the crossfire is the academic cooperation between the two countries. An example is how the Thousand Talents Plan (TTP) is being used to attract academic talent, primarily to help with topics relating to economic and military advantage. For Canada, this is becoming an increasingly fine line to walk given the deteriorating relations between the two countries. This could not have come at a worse time as the COVID-19 pandemic requires greater collaboration between countries than before. What could have been an opportunity to pull the world together against a common foe has been mired in scandal and controversy. This led to many countries starting to pull away from the international community and starting to focus on their own interest. This has put further strain on both relationships with both China and the US. 

While there are benefits to trading with China, such as the large amount of capital or demand for resources, its recent behavior has shown that it is better to keep them at arm’s length. Currently, relations have been strained following the detention of two Canadian citizens following the arrest of a Huawei executive, which has been described as “an act of hostage diplomacy.” China’s refusal to follow diplomatic norms in this incident highlight the need to keep a distance from China diplomatically.  

So where to go from here? As Ken Moak points out for CGTN, a Chinese state run media outlet, “Canada can find alternative markets, but it needs many to replace China.” The same applies for the US as well, since they make up to 75 per cent of Canadian exports. This brings us to the fact that Canada should start to strengthen their relations with both established and emerging markets.This way, Canada could reduce its dependence on the major powers. As well, Canada does not need to be hostile towards China, but should know when to put its foot down. Mutual respect between the two countries is required before anything productive can happen. There are many other fields outside of defence where both parties can find mutual benefit. But this comes with the paradox that the “scientific collaboration is not about advancing science, it is to advance China’s national security interests.”  

What should be made clear is that this is a conflict of economic power between the US and China instead of an ideological one like during the Cold War. Because Canada has relations with both powers, it will have to tread lightly until China starts shifting away from national security and towards scientific advancement as an end in and of itself. 

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