Brian Lee Crowley

Getting real about China, on NAFTA, national security and trade diversification

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet these days about China, as any sensible person should. Everyone seems fixated on Donald Trump bullying Canada (and that is a reasonable concern) but the number of people who hold up China as some kind of alternative is truly staggering. If you want real, subtle, long-term bullying in unapologetic pursuit of national interests, you cannot do better than China. Add to that that China is an authoritarian, autocratic and repressive country without even a nodding acquaintance with the rule of law and a hostile relationship with the western alliance, etc., etc., etc., and China gets less appealing every day as a partner for Canada. Here are three recent op-eds in which I develop these various themes:

In the 30 May 2018 edition of the Globe, I took aim at China for its clear threats to Canadians’ national security. The context was Ottawa’s rather unexpected but welcome decision to veto the takeover of Canadian construction giant Aecon by a Chinese firm. As I pointed out, if this means that Ottawa is going to take national security threats from China more seriously (including their to-date insouciance about Huawei’s deep involvement in building Canada’s next generation 5G wireless network) that is very good news indeed and not before time.

Then came the G7 Summit. The G7 seems to me a little adrift these days, an organisation in search of a mission that would unite the disparate interests of Japan, North America and the largest European economies. My suggestion in an 8 July piece in Inside Policy: they should all agree to unite and reinforce their current disparate efforts to confront China’s disgraceful behaviour in the South China Sea that is an affront to the rule of law and freedom of navigation. There is also a video version of this piece.

Finally, Ottawa has been ramping up its focus on “trade diversification” as a kind of defensive card to play in its NAFTA negotiations with Washington. But of all the daft ideas, the one that China can replace or even partially compensate for our trade relationship with the US is surely the daftest. Read my op-ed, co-authored with Sean Speer, in the Globe of 20 July 2018 about why China is no trade saviour for Canada.

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Data theft, cyber carjacking and EMPs: technology and its vulnerabilities

In my column for the July 24th edition of the Globe I ruminate on the vulnerabilities that technology creates to various forms of hacking, data theft and cyber attacks, lamenting our apparent determination not to take these threats as seriously as they deserve to be taken. Nobody took seriously the vulnerabilities of airport security before 9/11 either….

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The viper in our bosom

Two soldiers dead within a week, killed by lone wolves professing to be inspired by jihadist Islamism. Many Canadians are stunned that other Canadians, people born and raised in Canada, could commit these cruel, heartless and destructive acts against our country. And yet treason and treachery are hardly new ideas. They have a long history in every society, including western democracies blessed with freedom and the rule of law. In my latest column for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers I talk about the history of such betrayals and the unpleasant work we need to do to protect ourselves.

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Brian Lee Crowley