X.B. Shen | Jan 16, 2019

What comes up when you hear China these days?

Dictatorship, authoritarianism, human rights violations, censorship?

On a CBC radio episode of the Current in December, host Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed 3 people during a half-hour segment on the recent escalating tension following the Huawei CFO's arrest.

The first guest was Chinese exile Poet Sun Xuwei. She asserted, “China is bullying Canada because China is a dictatorship, a state terrorist, and not a normal country.” Conservative Party MP Erin O'Toole was next. He said China is running a “state retaliatory detention” against Canada in arresting a young Canadian teacher. He suggested that a travel advisory to China should be called. The third person interviewed was former ambassador to China David Mulroney, a conservative. He said China is a “surveillance state,” praised the US Secretary of State's recent criticism of China and called for a more joint effort among western nations against China's “extreme and aggressive behaviour.” He indicated a lot of young western people living in China should watch their backs because China has so many measures to use to terrorize them. This is the same Mulroney who, just a few days ago, said Canada should treat Trump's words as background noise when Trump politicized the Huawei CFO's arrest.

Should China treat Trump's numerous threats against itself as background noise?

No, it shouldn't, nor can it.

Western countries have waged several wars against China. I am not referring to the two World Wars, during which many western nations were also the victims. I am not referring to the Korean War and Vietnamese War in which China was also involved directly or indirectly as these two wars were part of a broader scheme by the Western world to constrain communism's expansion and undermine the new Communist China.

China was the primary target of Western invasions historically, primarily because of its huge wealth. China's economy was the largest in the world in the beginning of the1800s.The British empire launched the First Opium Wars between 1839 and 1842, which saw Hong Kong ceded to the British. Between 1856 and 1860, the British, French and Americans launched the second Opium War, with the participation of many other Western nations. Then in 1900, Britain, France, the US, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Japan, and Russia, dubbed the eight-nation Alliance, invaded and occupied Beijing, ransacking the Forbidden City, and looting the Old Summer Palace before burning it down to cover up their plundering. Can you imagine if the Louvre was ransacked and burned down? The difference is, the Old Summer Palace was much bigger and richer, and it took 4,000 troops and 3 days of active burning to destroy it.

The wars imposed on China resulted in significant loss in Chinese treasury in the form of war compensation to western nations, significant land sovereignty loss, and nationwide long-term opium addiction, which was eradicated only after the communists took power. And today, many stolen Chinese treasures are still held in museums in western countries, and numerous more are lost in private collections.

The wars may be over, but the memory lives on, especially with the new threats from the US following the economic rise of China.

The rise of China has relied on the hard work, perseverance and intelligence of the Chinese people. For the western companies which brought knowledge and jobs to China, it was business, not charity that motivated them.

The view that the media and the politicians have been almost universally portraying recently is one of China as the bad guy, and the US and Canada as the moral superior. The claims of China stealing and cheating on a national scale are more rhetoric than proven fact and aim to discredit China and its people more than bring about justice.

Unfortunately this rhetoric is getting louder each day with assertions of such things as “spyware” and “state-sponsored hacking” schemes by China against Western nations.

This anti-China rhetoric will undoubtly lead to anti-Chinese sentiment.

In December, a friend of mine, who has been a supporter of our farm since its start, visited me to give us a Christmas gift. We talked about politics and the rising tension between Canada and China. I mentioned my concern to her. Will I suffer consequences just for being Chinese?

I'm a small farmer in a predominantly white county in eastern Ontario, but I was born into a peasant family in China and came to Canada for university almost two decades ago. I have never felt racial discrimination against me personally. Canadians are kind and accepting. But shifts have occurred and can occur again.

And in the world of Trump, who succeeds from chaos, and thrives on the downfall of others, Canada is a pawn in a US-waged war against China, whether it is willing or not.

X.B. Shen is a farmer and writer living in South Frontenac.

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