At the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, an event focusing on defence and security matters in the Asia-Pacific region, Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand made it clear: Canada seems now fully committed to assisting U.S. efforts to provoke a war in the Pacific.
In her speech during the second day of scheduled sessions on June 3, Anand stated that “Canada is boosting its annual naval deployments in the Indo-Pacific from two warships to three. We will now annually deploy an additional warship from our Atlantic Coast, growing Canada’s regional presence, particularly in the Indian Ocean.”
In a coordinated demonstration of this commitment, HMCS Montreal shadowed a U.S. destroyer transiting the Taiwan Strait, the narrow waterway that separates the island of Taiwan from mainland China.
While the waterway is technically in international waters, it’s not difficult to see how the repeated incursions by multiple foreign militaries close to Chinese borders would cause concern as to the intention of these passages.
In response, a Chinese naval vessel conducted close manoeuvres in front of the U.S. ship, displaying China’s resolve in defending its own security.
This manoeuvre resulted in an alarmed response from Canadian officials and media. Global News, whose national editorial staff appears to be fully in line with the Canadian government, military, and national security apparatus’ positions on China, had a reporter embedded on HMCS Montreal to give a play-by-play of China’s “aggressive” posture during the transit.
This reporting follows the same pattern as numerous other instances of foreign military surveillance flights being intercepted and monitored by Chinese fighter jets, or ships operating in the waters off China’s coast being closely followed. Each time, shock and panic are expressed at China using its military for its stated purpose – to keep watch over China’s territorial borders and potentially defend against incursion or attack.
The probing manoeuvres by U.S. and Canadian military vessels and aircraft have specific purposes, usually explained as “ensuring maritime security” according to the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea or UNCLOS. (The interpretation of this Convention has been disputed by both China and the U.S.)
Surveillance aircraft operated by the U.S. and Canada are fitted with powerful equipment which gather visual and electronic data. While the current aircraft operated by Canada’s air forces, the CP-140 Aurora, is billed mainly as an anti-submarine warfare platform, the Canadian government has formally requested the Boeing P-8 as a future replacement, which is a far more sophisticated surveillance aircraft which can be fitted with numerous sensors to gather a wide range of signals emitted by other military craft and equipment within range.
By engaging in what is called close-in surveillance – inside China’s Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ – Canada can make use of the inevitable Chinese response in its domestic media coverage to build up public support for increased militarisation. Because China’s representatives or statements are rarely, if ever, given any airtime within Canadian media, any story regarding China typically leans heavily toward the official position of the Canadian government and military, which carry significant weight in editorial decisions at all major national media outlets.
In his speech during the third day of the Shangri-La Dialogue, China’s Minister of National Defence, Li Shangfu, stated that with regard to the South China Sea, “thanks to the concerted efforts of regional countries, the situation in the South China Sea has generally remained stable and regional exchanges and cooperation have grown stronger. The sound momentum towards greater stability must not be disrupted. Every year tens of thousands of ships from different countries sail through the South China Sea, transporting a total of US$3.5 trillion of goods to all parts of the world. We have never heard any of these ships having any trouble passing through or facing any security threats.”
The Minister of National Defence also touted China’s record on fostering security around the globe, making mention of China’s recent success in mediating the restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A huge step toward stabilising the entire Middle East/West Asian region, this event appeared to receive little attention from Canadian media.
Minister Li Shangfu stated that “in accordance with the important consensus reached between President Xi Jinping and leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran, the latter two countries held a dialogue in Beijing and signed a joint statement on restoring diplomatic relations. Their rapprochement has led to a chain reaction of reconciliation in the Middle East. This is a victory of dialogue, and a victory of peace.”
The Chinese Minister was no doubt also referring to the subsequent re-entry of Syria into the Arab League, a move that has been widely regarded as positive and could bring further cooperation among Arab nations to guarantee regional security after decades of conflict, terrorism and U.S. intervention.
In a veiled reference to the United States, Li Shangfu was clear and firm in articulating China’s view of the U.S. record as a global power: “Some country has wilfully interfered in other countries’ internal affairs, meddled in the affairs of other countries and frequently resorted to unilateral sanctions and incursion with force. It has incited colour revolutions and proxy wars in different regions, created chaos and turbulence and just walked away leaving a mess behind. We must never allow such things to happen again in the Asia Pacific.”
The Minister’s speech was an interesting balancing act, on the one hand highlighting China’s historical role in fostering peaceful conflict resolution, its increased commitment to United Nations peacekeeping missions, and its core focus on promoting economic development across the globe through initiatives like the Belt & Road and participation in BRICS+ (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), and on the other critiquing the “rules-based international order” that is promoted by the United States, Canada and major European nations.
Anita Anand, for her part, seemed to focus mainly on beefing up Canada’s military presence around China. Referring to the “Indo-Pacific strategy,” a carefully constructed term that by its very nature implies the U.S. would like to get India on board with containing China – something which President Biden is sure to press during Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming visit to Washington – Anand’s speech illustrates that Canada sees China as the number one threat to the entire planet.
Anand said: “My friends, every issue that matters to global security in the coming decades – democracy, climate change, human rights, artificial intelligence, and more – will all run through this region. As a Pacific nation itself, Canada has much to offer the region, and the region has many opportunities in turn for Canada. Through our Indo-Pacific strategy, you will continue to see more and more of Canada. And through Operation HORIZON, which I have announced today, you will see a larger Canadian defence presence right here in the Indo-Pacific.”
For Canadians, the future path seems clear enough. Not content with becoming involved in a conflict with one nuclear-armed power – a consequence of military escalation in Ukraine – our government leaders are following the “Washington Consensus” regarding the Pacific, which leads to conflict with China (and possibly North Korea) as well.
China’s Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu has put the matter thus: “As the lyrics of a well-known Chinese song goes, when friends visit us, we welcome them with fine wine. When jackals or wolves come, we will face them with shotguns. This illustrates that the Chinese people’s character of being friendly and kind but not intimidated by strong power.”
Ryan Hillier is a writer and settler living on the banks of the Petkootkweăk.