Undeclared gifts to political up-and-comers, disinformation missions, and negotiators flaunting about how they figured out how to overcome applicants considered unpleasant: These actions took place prior to the 2021 federal parliamentary elections in Canada, not during the height of the Cold War or in a spy movie. Americans ought to be concerned about the possibility of future cooperation with Canada in the fight against China in light of reports that China interfering in the elections in Canada.
A report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that was leaked in the middle of February revealed that China had interfered in the Canadian election in 2021. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States were all informed of the findings, as were the German and French intelligence services. At this time, there is no evidence that this interference affected the election.
China had two goals for the Canadian election in 2021. First, Beijing wanted to stop the election of some Conservative Party of Canada members who were thought to be friendly to China. Second, they wanted to help a Liberal minority government in Parliament, which would make it harder for the Conservatives to pass legislation and would defeat them. “Beijing likes it when the parties in Parliament are fighting with each other, whereas if there is a majority, the party in power can easily implement policies that do not favor the PRC,” said an unidentified source at a Chinese consular mission in Canada, as reported by the Globe and Mail.
The United Front Work Department, a Chinese Communist Party organization that conducts influence operations both domestically and internationally, was frequently used by China to support political candidates through the implementation of disinformation campaigns and cash donations that were not disclosed.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement on March 6 that he will appoint a special rapporteur to investigate foreign interference in the 2021 elections is a positive first step, but it fails to take into account the broader strategic ramifications of China’s actions. The potential for the United States and Canada to develop a united and allied strategy to combat China may have been diminished if China’s interference was able to alter the outcome of the election in the direction that it desired. This is a major concern for the United States because Washington’s primary objective is to counter China, a nation described by Washington as intent on reshaping the international order.
The decision to prohibit TikTok from government phones and Huawei infrastructure across the country was Canada’s most recent concrete action against China’s potentially harmful actions.
While Canada’s policy mistakes in dealing with China’s threat are troubling, the comfort China has shown in taking advantage of these flaws is a more pressing concern for American policymakers. For instance, Hytera was given a contract by the federal government to construct communications infrastructure for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, despite the fact that Hytera is accused of espionage in the United States and has ties to the CCP.
It is essential to rely on cooperation with partners and allies for strength when responding to global challenges. The coordinated efforts of the West to impose sanctions and deliver weapons in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine serve as an illustration of this. With Japan and the Netherlands as allies, the United States has taken steps to restrict the amount of advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment sent to China. The Netherlands, Japan, and the United States all have significant producers of this kind of cutting-edge machinery. Initial unilateral measures against equipment exports to China were announced by the United States. At the time, a major concern was that the United States would not be able to stop the flow of equipment to China if it did not get support from its allies.
Is really China is interfering
The United States of America must be ready to collaborate with its allies to develop strategies and take collective action as China’s threat continues to grow. Partners like Canada may be limited in their ability to collaborate with the United States on the development of policy responses if subsequent campaigns of influence by the Chinese government are successful. China’s efforts in 2021 to silence voices it deemed to be too harsh and to limit the governing party’s operational ability by ensuring a minority government could very easily work to prevent legislation or policy decisions from being passed.
Washington should think twice before relying on Canadian support to fight back against Beijing because of the actions of China and Ottawa’s lack of appropriate response. However, the United States can offer assistance to Canada in its fight against China.
The Muller Report and numerous public disclosures in 2016 were the result of Russia’s flagrant meddling in the U.S. election. The country is no stranger to foreign interference in its own elections. The public was able to have a better understanding of the threat posed by foreign interference in 2020 after being made aware of Russia’s actions in 2016. On the other hand, Trudeau has only announced that a special rapporteur will be appointed soon. If they so choose, the special rapporteur will be able to recommend a public inquiry. With Canadian leaders, the United States should try to emphasize the significance of a public inquiry and impart additional lessons learned.
It depends on Canada to set its own home up, yet the US ought to situate itself as a willing accomplice to help Canada in arriving. In an era of great power competition, a Canadian government that has made serious efforts to protect itself from Chinese interference is a better ally for the United States.