Canada FM calls out 'increasingly disruptive' China

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly on Wednesday called out an "increasingly disruptive" China on the world stage as she teased in a speech parts of a new Indo-Pacific strategy expected to be released this month.

Her comments come ahead of several summits in the region that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to attend, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cambodia, the Group of 20 top economies (G20) in Indonesia, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Thailand.

"China is an increasingly disruptive, global power," Joly told a Toronto audience.

"It seeks to shape the global environment into one that is more permissive for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours," she said.

"And China's rise as a global actor is reshaping the strategic outlook of every state in the region, including Canada."

In a broad outline of Ottawa's new policy roadmap, which is due to be released in the coming weeks, Joly said it will be critical to expand relations with India and other countries in the region, as well as Taiwan.

In the speech, she did not discourage further trade with China, which has become Canada's second largest trading partner, despite strained diplomatic ties.

But she warned Canadian businesses that they "need to be clear-eyed" about doing business in and with China.

Bilateral relations soured following Canada's 2018 arrest of a Huawei executive on a US warrant, and Beijing's detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation. All three were released last year as part of a deal with US prosecutors.

Joly said Canada must continue to deal with China on global issues such as climate change. Notably, China will chair a UN biodiversity conference in Montreal in December.

But she promised Ottawa would be vocal on China's poor treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities, its crushing of free speech in Hong Kong, military threats against Taiwan, and any moves to curtail international navigation rights in the region.

"We will challenge China when we ought to. We will cooperate with China when we must," Joly said.

"The Indo-Pacific region is the epicenter of a generational global shift," she said, predicting that it will account for half of the global economy by 2040.

Joly also noted an increasing Canadian military presence in the Pacific, and pledged more staff at its embassies tasked with analysing impacts of China policies and actions.

At global forums, she vowed Canada and its allies will also be "pushing back against behaviours that undermine international norms."

amc/dw