China's "Magic Weapon" Hits Canadian Targets
This is a full-blown national security crisis. The ruling Liberals want us to pretend it's not happening. The prime minister is obviously hiding something. What is it? Read on. . .
To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle. - George Orwell, 1946.
In recent weeks, whistleblowers within the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service have been pulling back the curtains on Beijing’s “elite capture” operations in this country like I’ve never seen in more than a decade of covering this story.
Canadians have been well and truly shocked by blockbuster revelations detailing how Beijing’s diplomats and proxies in Canada were directly involved in attempts to monkeywrench the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, to the advantage of Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberals.
The evidence is now near to overwhelming that the Trudeau government knew this was happening, when it was happening, and allowed it to happen. But why?
You’ll want to sit back for this newsletter. It goes down deep. Before we get into the guts of it. . .
Getting you quickly caught up
By way of background, to move things along, here are just a few of the key reports in recent weeks from Global News’ Sam Cooper and the Globe and Mail’s Bob Fife and Steven Chase:
Canadian Intelligence Warned PM Trudeau that China covertly funded 2019 election candidates - sources. Secret 2020 Privy Council Office memo found ‘active foreign interference network’ in 2019 election. CSIS documents reveal Chinese strategy to influence Canada’s 2021 election. Liberals ignored CSIS warning on 2019 candidate accused in Chinese interference probe - sources.
This week, CSIS has confirmed the shocking details of what we all knew to be true at the time about a big-money donation to the Pierre Trudeau Foundation from those sketchy Chinese billionaires Justin Trudeau was caught partying with at those cash-for-access soirees in 2016. CSIS has known for some time that it was all part of a Beijing-directed influence operation that targeted Trudeau himself, going back to 2013.
Second up: The tableful of deputy ministers assigned to report out on the diligence of the strangely inattentive Critical Election Incident Public Protocol Panel during the 2021 election has completed its assignment. The bureaucrats concluded that the rules about the thickness of smoke required to justify the pulling of election fire alarms definitely need some rewriting, but at least the whole building did not burn down in 2021. Which we also already knew.
Awkwardly, the guy picked to oversee the 2021 election post-mortem and write the report turns out to have been Morris Rosenberg, the Trudeau Foundation CEO involved in taking a $200,000 Chinese check that was part of that influence-peddling operation aimed at ensnaring Justin Trudeau.
Pressed to confirm or deny reports that CSIS had urgently warned senior Liberal officials that their Don Valley - North candidate Han Dong was “a witting affiliate in China’s election interference networks,” Trudeau wouldn’t exactly say. Here’s what he did say, on Monday: “In a free democracy, it is not up to unelected security officials to dictate to political parties who can and cannot run." Subscribers will decide for themselves, but to me that sounds a lot like Trudeau telling CSIS: ‘Yeah we know he’s Beijing’s guy but we’re okay with that, so stay in your lane.’
Despite the Trudeau government’s efforts to change the subject and pull down the blinds and slam the doors shut and locked, some light’s getting in. That’s very much to the good. We’re all in a better position now to at least know some things for certain about what’s been going in front of our noses for years.
Before the main attraction. . .
Sorry. . .
About the lateness of this Real Story Special: It was delayed by past-deadline correspondence & last-minute interviews, a power outage, legal considerations, a long Sunday conversation with a U.S. intelligence analyst and my reacquaintance with a former RCMP China-subversion analyst who helped me get myself sorted on a couple of important questions. It also turned out that I’d bit off more than was chewable in a single newsletter, so this is Part One of what I’d planned. Part Two is in my next newsletter.
I’m afraid I’m not going to make many friends in high places with these contributions, and perhaps not among a few of this newsletter’s subscribers either. Much of what I’ve got on hand will have to go on the far side of the paywall in Part One today, and in Part Two as well. Sorry not sorry.
Back to it
As I mentioned in Saturday’s Real Story, you can’t tell the players without a program, and you can’t tell the program without the players. What follows will contain an outline of the Chinese Communist Party political-warfare program in Canada, and how it embedded itself in a weird symbiosis with the Liberal Party and Team Trudeau’s “economic growth” strategy.
You read that right. It’s the thing that’s been in play behind all the scary headlines these past few weeks.
In Part Two, among other things, I’ll present an illuminating but only a representative sample of the players because, as I’ve said, a full rogues’ gallery would make this newsletter the size of one of those old telephone books. They’re not all Liberals by the way. The New Democrats have their share, and the Conservative Party. . . let’s just say for now that the Conservative Party has a very serious problem that needs attending to. Very serious.
One more thing. The State of Play. Can Trudeau survive this?
There’s much brow-furrowing going on at the moment over whether Trudeau’s legendary teflon will protect him from his current own-goal catastrophe. I have no idea, but I suspect he can and will. I’ll explain.
Calls for an urgent Inquiries Act investigation into the extent of Beijing’s criminal election interference and the apparent willingness of Trudeau government officials to allow it to happen have come from former CSIS head Richard Fadden and former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, among others. “The reason why this is important is that the legitimacy of government is what is at stake,” Kingsley says.
Well, yes. More importantly, the legitimacy of Canada as a reliable Five Eyes intelligence-sharing ally has been at stake even since the Trudeau Liberals emerged on the scene in 2015 as the political wing of the Canada-China Business Council. And Team Trudeau has been returned to power twice since then. So there’s that.
Over the past few days Trudeau has cast the crisis as a matter of a failure on the part of Canada’s intelligence agencies to "keep their secrets,” if you please. For now, at least, Trudeau is saying that there’s no reason to dust off the Inquiries Act, and that if you’re curious to know, say, what the hell the deal is with Don Valley - North Liberal MP Han Dong, you’re a racist.
So, no Inquiries Act investigation? “I applaud the work by parliamentary committees to monitor the situation,” Trudeau says.
Of course he does.
As I set out in last Wednesday’s Real Story newsletter (We’re At The Point Of No Return), the main Commons committee probing Beijing’s elections-interference operations is the Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. And it’s been neutralized.
Last week the Liberal-NDP majority denied the committee access to all memoranda, briefing notes, e-mails, records of conversations and CSIS reports about any efforts “by or on behalf of foreign governments or other foreign state actors to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 general elections.” Until last week, the committee was focused on revelations about Beijing’s cloak-and-dagger work only in the 2019 elections, and its requests for documents had been met with reams of blank, redacted pages.
So of course Trudeau would “applaud” this.
Over the weekend, more voices joined the chorus for an Inquiries Act probe, and we’re expected to take it as highly relevant and a sign of Trudeau’s growing isolation that among the advocates is Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s former senior adviser. Butts is the disgraced hippie Rasputin character who fell on his sword for Trudeau and went away in the aftermath of the SNC-Lavalin scandal (which, it goes without saying, Trudeau also survived).
Butts says a “non-partisan inquiry” is just the ticket, but it should look at a broad spectrum of foreign interference issues, and not just what China’s been up to: “The radical changes in geopolitics and technological advancements of the past several years mean we’re in a different, more dangerous world where many foreign actors have an interest in harming democratic institutions and the capacity to do it.”
Cut through the verbiage and you’ll see that what Butts is proposing by way of an investigation is an open-ended Eurasia Group thinkfest to change the subject entirely and bury the story. My bet: Trudeau might just go for this.
To give you a sense of how seriously Butts would have us take these latest evidences of Beijing’s long reach into circles of power in Canada, he has consistently attacked every China-beat journalist in the country, including me, going back years.
Apparently the newspapers I write for shouldn’t be taken seriously. They’re owned by “a right-wing American hedge fund,” which I should admit is actually almost true, but irrelevant. Butts has also said the Globe and Mail’s China coverage over the years isn’t journalism, it’s an “agenda.” He’s likened the Globe and Mail to the British tabloid the Daily Mail, and he’s dismissed the latest revelations by the Globe’s Bob Fife and Steve Chase as “clickbait.”
During an otherwise pleasant late-night session over whiskey in an Ottawa bar well before the 2019 federal election, I asked Butts - we used to get along - whether Trudeau really had any idea what he was getting himself into in his pursuit of Beijing’s affections. Butts fairly erupted. “You sound just like Steve Bannon,” Butts said, referring to his similarly-disgraced hippie Rasputin counterpart in the Trump White House. Ironically, Butts used to call Bannon his “friend.” I sure wouldn’t.
He’d never admit it, of course, but in all likelihood the “non-partisan inquiry” Butts proposed last Friday is a damage-control stratagem he’d already cooked up in close consultation with Trudeau and with Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford.
You have to admit, it’s pretty elegant.
In Butts’ formula, the big story of Beijing’s subversions of Canadian democracy would disappear in a fog of highbrow claptrap and Power & Politics panels until a year or so down the line, hey presto, the crisis currently gripping the country would end up just another scandal that Trudeau had somehow survived.
So what is that big story, anyway? It’s a long story of Beijing’s subversions in Canada, at the highest levels, more or less at the invitation of the Trudeau government. So buckle up:
The United Front and the Long March of the New Huaqiao
Our eighteen years of experience have taught us that the United Front, Armed Struggle and Party Building are the Chinese Communist Party's three "magic weapons", its three principal magic weapons for defeating the enemy in the Chinese revolution. - Mao Zedong, 1939.
Okay, here’s The Program.
Back in 2015, the Trudeau Liberals embarked upon a mission to transform Canada into a “post-national state” in the coupling of Chinese capital and China’s vast consumer markets with Canada’s resource wealth and advanced capitalist economy. Here’s a deep dive I wrote about all that a couple of years back: Justin Trudeau went all in on China a decade ago — and nothing can shake his resolve. Also helpful to come back to after you’re done reading this newsletter: Dominic Barton and The Damage Done, Part One and Part Two.
It was also in 2015 that Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping started rejuvenating the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, elevating its Central Committee status and retooling the agency for an ever-greater focus on Beijing’s global ambitions.
United Front work, tongyi zhanxian, derives from the Chinese Communist Party’s warfare lexicon. It refers collectively to the Party’s strategies in exerting its authority and legitimacy beyond the CCP’s Han Chinese base. The United Front Work Department relies on coercion and seduction and the obsessive suppression of dissent and criticism, at home and abroad.
The United Front’s overseas influence-peddling operations are carried out through a complex strategy of reward and punishment, flattery and financial inducement, espionage and intimidation. “United Front work has taken on a level of significance not seen since the years before 1949,” says Anne-Marie Brady, a political scientist at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury. “(China) is increasingly able to use its soft-power ‘magic weapons’ to help influence the decision-making of foreign governments and societies.”
The United Front’s expansion in 2015 - the department’s biggest year in a quarter-century - included ambitious moves to marshal and mobilize the huaqiao and “new huaqiao” - the Chinese diaspora and China’s “new capitalist” overseas networks.
You could say that 2015 was also the Liberal Party’s biggest year in almost a quarter of a century - the 1993 federal election had reduced the Opposition Conservatives to two seats. The Liberal Party that carried Trudeau on its shoulders into the Prime Minister’s Office in 2015 was something new. It was a coalition of a kind.
Seven out of ten Liberal party members in 2015 were starry-eyed hipsters directly recruited by Team Trudeau. The vanguard’s overseers included key figures from the Power Corporation circle of China-trade lobbyists and dealmakers centred in Montreal. Team Trudeau’s policy mandarins came straight from Dominic Barton’s McKinsey & Company, the worldwide consulting behemoth that Barton had turned into a global-trade service agency for corrupt police states, most notably the People’s Republic of China (see The Trudeau Liberals' long, sordid history with McKinsey.)
With an overtly pro-Beijing government in power in Ottawa in 2015, the United Front soon acquired a near-monopoly in conventional Chinese-language media in Canada, and went on exert control of Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, Douyin and Zhihu by censorship, propaganda and disinformation - all of which is critical if you take a mind to manipulate the outcome of elections in key ridings across the country.
For all the recent focus on Beijing’s interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, the United Front was engaged in subversion at the municipal, provincial and federal level in Canada even before Xi Jinping ramped up the Party’s “magic weapon” to the purposes of his world-order restructuring ambitions. Manipulating elections in Canada has been a United Front specialty for at least two decades.
In 2017, the Financial Times obtained a United Front training manual that boasted of its successes in electing candidates in the Greater Toronto Area going back two decades. In 2003, six GTA candidates were elected among 25 favored contestants. In 2006, among 44 United Front picks, 10 candidates were elected.
“We should aim to work with those individuals and groups that are at a relatively high level, operate within the mainstream of society and have prospects for advancement,” the training manual advises. And that’s exactly what the United Front set out to do, employing a cunning strategy of “elite capture” in target organizations and countries.
To give you a better sense of Beijing’s elite capture of Canadian institutions, here’s something you should know: By 2019, Beijing’s proxies and friends had won a hammer lock on Canada’s senate. If you think I’m lathering it on, finish reading this newsletter and then come back to this fairly in-depth backgrounder-explainer I wrote for Maclean’s magazine four years ago. There was no bloodshed or gunplay involved. Those geezers don’t even have to worry about getting elected.
“The CCP is not so much interested in disrupting or seizing alien institutions,” a Sinopsis analysis explains, “but rather in repurposing them to align with its own goals.” And that’s what’s been done to the Senate.
With the Trudeau Liberals’ victory at the polls in 2015, Beijing’s wildest dreams were realized. It was all gravy from then on, until things started looking a bit shaky in 2019, after the kidnapping of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and all that.
Here’s the key thing to understand:
Trudeau’s “Chinese” activist base is the United Front’s activist base.
If you get this part wrong, you’ll never get your head around the enormity of the national-security catastrophe that has come to unfold in Canada in recent years, and you won’t grasp why it is that the same names keep showing up in Liberal Party candidacies and CSIS intelligence briefings on its surveillance of United Front work in Canada.
The problem isn’t Chinese immigrants. They’re the primary victims of the United Front’s strongarm rackets. Step out of line and God help you. You’ll get swept up in “a widespread pattern of harassment and intimidation aimed, in particular, at Tibetan Canadians, Uyghur Canadians, Falun Gong practitioners and democracy activists working on China-related human rights issues in Canada.”
These next bits are crucial to understanding what’s going on.