CLAWS OF THE PANDA: BEIJING'S CAMPAIGN OF INFLUENCE AND INTIMIDATION IN CANADA By Jonathan Manthorpe, Book Review by Bob Publicover
Readers who favour tales of espionage and political intrigue will likely enjoy Jonathan Manthorpe’s tract about pervasive and deepening Chinese intrusion into Canadian political and economic affairs. He is highly critical of the Communist Party of China and President Xi Jinging, labelling both as “fascist” and “duplicitous”.
The author points to China’s systematic mistreatment and suppression of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Falun Gong and Hong Kongese in dispelling as “naïve” the notion that more open trade and closer political relations between Canada and China would nudge China to become a liberal democratic society and a fair trader.
His underlying message is that Canadian relations with China are largely shaped by two considerations – developing a substantial commercial relationship and managing security threats.
In Manthorpe’s opinion, China’s approach to foreign relations is rooted in the view that it has been deprived of its rightful place as an economic and political superpower because of racist, colonialist policies. Hence Chinese officials believe it is legitimate for them to covertly influence political opinion and processes in foreign countries. He argues that China’s efforts at subterfuge became more intense in response following the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square which “...signalled a sharp turn to the left in party ideology. ”
He portrays Canada’s relationship with China as being framed by a deep difference between the values of Canadian political and economic liberalism and those of China’s dictatorial expansionism. This gap explains, in Manfort’s view, the motivation underlying extensive Chinese espionage and political interference in Canada.
A weakness in this book is the lack of formal substantiation of a number of Manthorpe’s allegations about China’s interference in Canadian political affairs; espionage in Canada and third countries and the intimidation of Chinese immigrants and nationals in Canada. . The author tells a number of intriguing stories about such activities, but there are very few footnotes identifying sources.
So the book lacks some academic discipline and the author could be accused of dealing in hearsay. That point made, Magnus’ accounts of Chinese intrusion into Canadian affairs are highly believable. This is especially the case if one bears in mind the reluctance of many witnesses and experts to put their names on the public record concerning such sensitive matters.
The author dismisses the notion that China aspires only to regional hegemony in Asia -
arguing that China’s behaviour in Asia and in Africa demonstrates that it conceives of itself as a long dormant superpower that will soon displace Russia and eventually even the United States as the preeminent global power.
Manthorpe concludes that China is successfully manipulating Canadian policy and political processes because of weak responses by government authorities and the business elite. He claims that Canada’s open society and general feeling of goodwill towards other countries are being unduly exploited by Chinese spying, human right abuses, theft of intellectual property and intimidation of Chinese Canadians through threats to family members still resident in China.
The essence of Manthorpe’s message is that our political and business leadership must wake up and take action to defend Canadian interests from further manipulation by China. Otherwise, we will continue to suffer significant damage to our economy and political system.
This is a hard nosed account of Chinese chicanery, and provides much food for thought.