Cana­di­ans have turned blind eye to China too long

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - FORUM - SEAN M. MALONEY

Most Cana­di­ans are rightly per­plexed by high-level con­cern over the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Huawei af­fair, the le­git­i­mate ap­pre­hen­sion of a key Chi­nese per­son of in­ter­est in that af­fair, and the sub­se­quent seizure of two Cana­di­ans by Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties un­der ex­tremely du­bi­ous cir­cum­stances.

Then we learn these men are be­ing held un­der con­di­tions that would be con­sid­ered tor­ture by most Cana­di­ans. Fur­ther­more, it is re­vealed, Chi­nese war­planes have ha­rassed un­armed Cana­dian pa­trol air­craft in the re­gion. Why, then, is it so dif­fi­cult to con­cep­tu­al­ize China as a threat to Cana­dian in­ter­ests and val­ues and take ac­tion to demon­strate our con­cern?

In ef­fect, I would sug­gest that most Cana­di­ans are philo­soph­i­cally dis­abled from con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing this lat­est threat.

There are two rea­sons for this. First, the cur­rent Cana­dian cli­mate re­gard­ing di­vi­sive racial is­sues gen­er­ates a chill­ing ef­fect on crit­i­cism of any state that is at first glance mono­cul­tural and not Euro­pean (tut-tut­ting about Saudi Ara­bia doesn’t count as real crit­i­cism). Cana­di­ans’ laud­able will­ing­ness to em­brace in­clu­siv­ity and the de­sire to be seen by oth­ers in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as “nice” and “not Amer­i­can” helps down­play such crit­i­cism gen­er­ally.

The sec­ond rea­son is that our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems dis­tort Canada’s his­tor­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, if they dis­cuss it at all be­yond the ex­ploita­tion of Chi­nese labour to build rail­ways in Bri­tish Columbia.

The re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is this: Canada fought a United Na­tions-sanctioned war against the forces of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China. In do­ing so, we in­curred four times as many dead as we lost in Afghanistan. China waged ag­gres­sive war against a piti­fully weaker Asian state on be­half of North Korea, sup­ported from the air by Soviet pi­lots in their MiGs (who weren’t sup­posed to be there ei­ther).

How many class­rooms across Canada ex­plain to their stu­dents what “Korea 1950-1953” is do­ing on the Na­tional War Memo­rial? They cer­tainly know about Vimy, but what about Kapy­ong? Or The Jamestown Line? And how many class­rooms in Que­bec teach that 25 Cana­dian In­fantry Brigade in­cluded 2nd Bat­tal­ion, Royal 22nd Reg­i­ment, stand­ing shoul­der to shoul­der with their An­glo­phone and In­dige­nous broth­ers, fend­ing off Chi­nese hu­man wave at­tacks with flamethrow­ers?

Cana­di­ans have been over the years bom­barded with the Holo­caust via ed­u­ca­tion and pop­u­lar cul­ture, and rightly so. But the liq­ui­da­tion of five mil­lion Chi­nese by Mao Ze­dong and his govern­ment in 1949 to con­sol­i­date the Chi­nese revo­lu­tion is never men­tioned in Canada. Nor, for ex­am­ple, is the ex­ten­sive work done by his­to­rian Frank Diköt­ter in which he cat­a­logues the Great Leap For­ward and the Cultural Revo­lu­tion. Diköt­ter sug­gests that the body count could be as high as 45 mil­lion peo­ple. Chi­nese sources sug­gest it is even higher than that.

Forty-five mil­lion peo­ple. We are deal­ing with a coun­try that mur­dered or oth­er­wise let die some­thing greater than the pop­u­la­tion of Canada. And in our liv­ing mem­ory, not through black and white pho­tos from the in­creas­ingly dis­tant 1940s. And this is not taught in our schools? This is not the con­text to the China we deal with to­day when the prime min­is­ter lec­tures China on civil rights?

But, the apol­o­gists ar­gue, that was in the 1960s. Things have evolved. Well, cer­tainly they did. Let us look at the 1970s, when a Maoist-in­spired move­ment called the Kh­mer Rouge elim­i­nated a cou­ple mil­lion of its “class en­e­mies” to gen­er­ate “year zero” for Cam­bo­dia. Then the 1980s: In the eu­pho­ria of the col­lapse of the Ber­lin Wall af­ter a 40-year nu­clear stand­off, tanks of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army moved into Tianan­men Square and lib­er­ated the souls of ... how many, ex­actly? We don’t know for sure, as CNN re­moved its cam­eras.

If you are out­raged by Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps, why are you not out­raged by BBC rev­e­la­tions on Chi­nese con­cen­tra­tion camps for “re-ed­u­cat­ing ” the Uighurs? Time to get woke, Canada.

Sean M. Maloney , PhD, is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at the Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege

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