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Thank you, Xi Jinping, for making it so obvious.
Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for drawing back the curtain. And thank God, I might even be on holiday right now.
Before we get into it: You may be hearing less from me or more from me through August. Can’t figure out which yet. I’m supposed to be on holiday, which means I’ll be away from my column for a month, but I’m also working on two projects that will likely exceed the efforts I ploughed into The Curious Case of Khaled Barakat and Year of the Graves.
I’m trying to leave off until September but you never know how these things go, and the Year of the Graves fallout just keeps coming. The pope has come and gone, taking his bell and his book and his candle with him, and questions continue to mount about the weirdness that brought him here in the first place. Here’s Jon Kay interrogating me on the subject in his Quillette podcast. I quite enjoyed the conversation.
Anyhow, one of these new projects is related to an immensely lucrative and seriously dodgy racket involving Canadians in China, and the other involves kleptocrats from another torture state who seem to be able to breeze in and out of Canada as they please - with bags of dirty money - sanctions or no sanctions. Enough out of me about that for now. You could all make my life a lot easier by taking out a paying subscription.
And now for your weekend newsletter.
Now that Xi Jinping is throwing the tantrum he was expected to throw over U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week, the congenitally accommodationist bloc in the NATO countries, Canada’s own Justin Trudeau foremost within it, cannot be happy. Can’t we all just get along?
No, we can’t, and it’s high time we all stopped pretending.
It’s true enough that things are quite dangerously testy between Washington and Beijing at the moment. Well, that’s how the real world intrudes upon the easy life sometimes. Things have been rather testy between Beijing and Taipei for quite some time now. The Taiwanese, we should be thankful to notice, aren’t losing their minds.
“We are not afraid. After years of constant threats by Beijing, Taiwan’s people do not panic easily,” Yu-Jie Chen writes in the New York Times. But the stakes are higher than most of us seem to think. “If Taiwan were brought to heel by China, the world would lose a shining example of democracy and the liberal international economic order at a time when the authoritarian tentacles of the likes of Russia and China are expanding.”
In my Postmedia column this week I declared for Team Pelosi, for the obvious reasons, among which Pelosi herself sets out quite a few. Beijing has already crushed the political freedoms of Hong Kongers, persists unimpeded in its brutal erasure of Tibetan culture and hasn’t let up in its cultural genocide of the Muslim-minority Uyghurs of Xinjiang.
And democracies owe a duty of solidarity to Taiwan. Who’s on Xi’s side? Russia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, Belarus, Nicaragua. . . the usual.
Xi has been accelerating the frequency and intensity of his threats to invade and overthrow the democratic Taiwanese republic for quite some time now, so don’t go blaming Nancy Pelosi. After lying that China had no intention of militarizing the islands Beijing was building in the South China Sea, Xi did just that, and now claims that almost the entire sea is a Chinese lake. Two years ago, with Taiwan’s conquest top of mind, Xi told the People’s Liberation Army: prepare for war.
Canada is “monitoring” the situation, and of course Canada is “concerned.” Thanks for letting us know, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly. My National Post colleague Sabrina Maddeaux would like to ask Joly a question: How is it that you still have a job?
A reasonable question, given the latest scandal blown open by the Globe and Mail: Diplomats in Kyiv were told that Ukrainians working for the Canadian embassy were likely on Kremlin capture-or-kill lists, but our diplomats were instructed not to tell the Ukrainian staff, and told not to help the Ukrainians escape the country, and Joly said she didn’t even know about the intelligence reports. Worse: “Canada’s Ukrainian employees had to crowdfund their evacuation so they wouldn’t face likely detention, torture or death.” Maddeaux has another question: “With allies like us, who even needs enemies?”
Another question. For more than three years, Ottawa has been promising a new China policy. Or a policy framework. Or a new approach, with “cornerstones” and “rules.” Then a “three-pronged framework” involving cooperation over things like climate change, competition in trade, and Canada’s alleged interest in Beijing’s human rights transgressions. Then Ottawa changed the name of the yet-to-be-formulated policy to “Indo-Pacific” something something. Whatever happened to that?
The job of putting it together was assigned to many of the same old gargoyles that got us into the mess we’re in, like the disgraced ambassador Dominic Barton, in the first place. And they argued about whether they should address China at all in their recommendations, and the first draft of what was initially supposed to be Canada’s new China policy ended up not even mentioning China at all.
So fast forward to Friday, and China announcing it was suspending talks with the United States on measures to curb climate change. The Trudeau government has been especially keen on climate change, and very big on cooperation with China on climate change. We’re all about bike lanes and electric cars after all. How’s that been going?
Canadians could all vanish from the face of the earth tomorrow and we’d take only about 1.5 percent of annual greenhouse-gas emissions out of the global equation. And while we’ve all been put at one another’s throats about the fortunes of Alberta’s oilpatch and carbon taxes and windmills and what have you, what’s China been up to? Building more coal plants, that’s what. Carbon emissions from the North American, Japanese and European economies have pretty well flatlined or fallen over the past 25 years. Here’s China’s C02 emissions, by way of comparison:
China’s state-capitalist economy is on the ropes regardless. On top of staggering Zero-Covid lockdowns, more than 300 construction projects have ground to a halt in 99 Chinese cities, mortgage strikes are underway across the country and property developers have defaulted to the tune of $83.6 billion over the past year. Nearly a third of China’s steel mills are facing bankruptcy and there’s no sign of a turnaround on a horizon that extends at least five years down the road. That’s what the founder and chairman of Hebei Jingye Steel Group confided at a private meeting earlier this summer, according to a transcript Bloomberg News got its hands on. “The whole sector is losing money,” Li Ganpo told industry leaders, “and I can’t see a turning point for now.”
Xi, who was a top party official and a senior commissar in a PLA reserve antiaircraft division in coastal Fujian back in the 1990s, may be having second thoughts about invading Taiwan owing to his ally Vladimir Putin’s catastrophic overreach and losses in Ukraine. At least for now. That’s the optimistic view. Here’s how Craig Singleton from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies puts it: “The upshot is Putin’s unprovoked, all-out assault on Ukraine may have accomplished what until recently seemed all but impossible: derailing Beijing’s timetable to invade Taiwan.”
Former Taiwanese admiral Lee Hsi-min and the Project 2049 Institute’s Eric Lee are slightly more pessimistic. The questions about Xi’s intended annexation of Taiwan are only about when and how. Xi’s massive military spending and his reforms of the PLA are designed to “better execute joint operations—those involving the army, air force and navy acting together—against Taiwan.” The weaponry the PLA has been churning out is “specifically designed to prevent American forces from intervening to help Taiwan or other allies in the region.” The PLA’s new arsenal includes new ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated air-defence systems and anti-satellite weapons, “all backed by a rapidly growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.”
The Chinese Communist Party’s intentions are increasingly clear, and “once the PLA is ready for an invasion Mr Xi’s decision to launch one could come with little warning.”
Xi doesn’t give a damn what the rest of the world thinks.
Speaking of cooperative engagements China is now suspending on the pretext of Pelosi’s unofficial visit to Taiwan, all that splendid progress in combating the international trade in illicit drugs has come to a halt. But how’s that been working out?
Tens of thousands of Americans die every year by overdosing on fentanyl. Almost all the fentanyl comes from Mexico, where it’s processed and manufactured from precursor chemicals that come from China, mysteriously evading Beijing’s surveillance-state industrial production and export controls.
Last month, Mexico’s army and National Guard announced “the largest seizure in the history of this lethal drug,” a half a ton, in a raid on a warehouse in Culiacan. The next day, Mexican prosecutors announced the seizure of a half-million fentanyl pills in a raid at another Culiacan warehouse - along with 83 kilos of fentanyl powder and a ton of meth.
Two milligrams of fentanyl can kill you. It’s 100 times more powerful than morphine.
At least 2,224 British Columbians died last year from “a toxic illicit drug supply” and fentanyl was detected in 83 percent of tested samples. Between January 2016 and last December, Canada recorded 29,052 “apparent opioid toxicity deaths,” and last year 86 percent involved fentanyl.
Thank you, Xi Jinping, for making it all so damn obvious.