Yves Tiberghien: ‘Fresh start’ for China-Canada re­la­tions

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By DAVID HOU in Van­cou­ver For China Daily

The new Lib­eral gov­ern­ment in Canada could pave the way for closer re­la­tions with China, says Yves Tiberghien, a pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Asian Re­search at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia.

“This is the op­por­tu­nity for a fresh start,” he said. “The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has not yet de­cided its core ap­proach to China and has not spelled much out dur­ing the cam­paign. But we know that the Trudeau gov­ern­ment will fit in the tra­di­tional Lib­eral ap­proach, which is mul­ti­lat­er­al­ist in na­ture and in favour of global en­gage­ment,” he said.

“The Lib­er­als also have a good his­tor­i­cal record (in­clud­ing new Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s fa­ther Pierre’s record) with China, hav­ing presided over a pos­i­tive pe­riod in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.”

Tiberghien spe­cial­izes in East Asian com­par­a­tive po­lit­i­cal econ­omy, fo­cus­ing on China, Ja­pan, Korea and South­east Asia. He is best known for his work in study­ing the in­ter­sec­tion of Asian and Western pol­i­tics.

Tiberghien is ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­i­ties a new gov­ern­ment can bring to China-Canada re­la­tions. He cited the lack of fol­low-up on then-Prime Min­is­ter Brian Harper’s 2014 visit to China as an ex­am­ple of an op­por­tu­nity for the new gov­ern­ment.

“A strate­gic di­a­logue was started in Novem­ber 2014 af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Harper’s visit to China. Yet, lit­tle ac­tion took place, and Canada did not en­gage China on the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank (AIIB),” he pointed out. “The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment could take ad­van­tage of this strate­gic di­a­logue and ex­press in­ter­est in the AIIB.”

The ris­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic clout of China ne­ces­si­tates closer en­gage­ment from the West.

“On one hand, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment un­der Justin Trudeau will agree with the BC gov­ern­ment on the need for en­gage­ment with China in terms of trade, in­vest­ment, G20, global in­sti­tu­tions etc,” Tiberghien said. “On the other hand, the Trudeau gov­ern­ment is tak­ing a more proac­tive ap­proach on cli­mate change and na­ture preser­va­tion. That could lead to some clashes over en­ergy ex­ports, par­tic­u­larly LNG (liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas),” he adds. “But a com­pro­mise will surely be found.”

China’s ris­ing in­flu­ence is the sub­ject of Tiberghien’s most re­cent book Asia and the Fu­ture of the World. He noted that China’s own change in lead­er­ship in 2008 also re­sulted in a more proac­tive stance on the global stage.

For now, though, the US holds sway over world af­fairs, al­though the re­la­tion­ship with China has much give and take, he said.

“It re­mains true that the US re­mains the dom­i­nant power in the global sys­tem and rep­re­sents a key re­al­ity for Chi­nese ac­tions,” Tiberghien said. “US-China re­la­tions and US-China agree­ments have a huge ef­fect on global af­fairs, as is hap­pen­ing now on cli­mate-change ne­go­ti­a­tions and also within the G20.

“China thus al­ways cal­cu­lates US re­ac­tions when preparing its own in­ter­na­tional moves,” he said. “Yet, Chi­nese ac­tions also start to pro­vide key con­straints on US ac­tions.

Tiberghien said that with the Lib­er­als in power, how­ever, new lines of di­a­logue can open.

“In this con­text, Canada can ei­ther band­wagon with the US (as of­ten in the past few years) or take a more in­de­pen­dent mid­dle power role,” he said. “Un­der that sec­ond role, pi­o­neered by the Lib­er­als in the past, Canada can ini­ti­ate new ini­tia­tives and act as a mid­dle power or me­di­at­ing power be­tween var­i­ous sides.”

He said that Canada can play a ma­jor role in ini­ti­at­ing new in­sti­tu­tions or nudg­ing other pow­ers (in­clud­ing the US and China) to­ward some global pub­lic good for­ma­tion.”

A key fac­tor in the ne­go­ti­a­tions is the hu­man el­e­ment of po­lit­i­cal de­mo­graph­ics. Prov­inces such as Bri­tish Columbia (with the high­est per­cent­age of Asian pop­u­la­tion in Canada) and On­tario (the sec­ond high­est) are cen­tral in the de­ci­sion-making process of eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal leg­is­la­tion.

“A key re­al­ity in China-Canada re­la­tions is the hu­man di­as­pora that links our two coun­tries,” Tiberghien said. “In Van­cou­ver, the Chi­nese com­mu­nity and di­as­pora is a huge part of the dy­namism of our city. Canada and Van­cou­ver can serve as a plat­form for ex­change, di­a­logue and in­cu­ba­tion of new in­sti­tu­tions or ap­proaches to global af­fairs.”

Tiberghien has noted an in­crease in stu­dent in­ter­est in Chi­nese pol­i­tics and econ­omy.

“China will play an im­por­tant part of the re­al­ity for the fu­ture of our cur­rent stu­dents. I al­ways en­cour­age stu­dents to be curious and seek to learn more about China, travel to China, en­gage with Chi­nese friends, work in China etc.”

We need more and more peo­ple who cross the Pa­cific and can work with each other and understand each other bet­ter.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Pro­fes­sor Yves Tiberghien is op­ti­mistic about Canada’s new Lib­eral gov­ern­ment and how it will re­late to China.

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