Aidan Jonah is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Canada Files. Join his Patreon, or The Canada Files' Patreon, or both.
The dominant image of China pushed by Canadian media figures is that of an evil imperialist nation.
If you had asked me what I thought of China when I was first starting up The Canada Files, I would’ve believed that China was an imperialist nation. I viewed myself as a firm “democratic socialist” and anti-imperialist, who understood that the mainstream media was not telling the truth about Canadian foreign policy. Despite this, I bought the anti-China propaganda wholesale.
It was only after I read the Grayzone’s exclusive articles detailing how claims that China was running concentration camps in Xinjiang, was utterly false, that the propaganda barrier was broken.
Over the months, I began to find a network of true anti-imperialists, such as Danny Haiphong and BayArea415, who were able to comprehensively explain China’s foreign and domestic policy, which has allowed me to provide far superior coverage on Canada-China affairs for The Canada Files.
Narratives pushed by the Canadian mainstream media include that the Hong Kong “pro-democracy protesters” were resisting colonization by China, that China is conducting “debt diplomacy” in Africa, or that China is committing “genocide” against the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Canadian media has also smeared activists who are pushing to free Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was detained on charges based on illegal US sanctions against Iran.
One of the best examples was a recent Twitter post by Ottawa Bureau Chief of The Globe and Mail, Robert Fife, who shared a paranoid op-ed titled “China’s takedown of Hong Kong is part of a strategy of world domination.”
Recently, a worrying trend has begun on “leftist” social media in Canada, pushing these narratives wholesale. Gabriel Masi, a board member of the Quebec Young New Democrats, recently used his platform to push the narrative of Xinjiang genocide.
Despite being provided with multiple articles and threads debunking this narrative, the propaganda barrier was not broken. That same day, Masi blocked the Communist Party of Canada’s Twitter account and liked a tweet from John Trydal which stated that “Tankies are weird man”.
Two days later, Masi posted a severely flawed Jacobin article about the “persecution of Ugyhurs in China”. He also liked a tweet from Ethan Sabourin, which stated: “Yeah I honestly can’t understand why uncritically pro-China communists justify the re-education of a muslim minority population!”
The propaganda barrier is a truly difficult one to break. I would understand that very well, given my own experiences.
"If we are this bad, they must be this bad"
So what’s the core logic that leads Canadian leftists to swallow up anti-China narratives wholeheartedly? It can be summed up in this way: Since Canada committed genocide against Indigenous peoples and is a colonial power, and China is also an “imperialist power”, China must have committed crimes equivalent to that of the Canadian state.
William Dere’s article for The Canada Files explains how China’s successful escape from the brutal control of financial capital is another force driving the Canadian left’s dislike for China:
“China challenges the status quo. China challenges the left’s perception of what a Marxist society should be. China is putting into practice the theories of the state and revolution, while the Western left is still philosophizing. China is a challenge to the Western economic order and presents an alternative. The left cannot see their way out of their idealism of either romantic socialism or nothing. There are so many left philosophers pondering this problem. As the old Trotskyists maintain, it was not a socialist revolution in China. Only in the advanced capitalist nation-states of Europe can you have a true socialist revolution. There is an element of racism and Sinophobia in this line of thinking.”
Canadian colonialism was genocide
Canada’s history is define by the genocide of Indigenous nations. Canadian colonialism and genocide occurred and continues today. From the first contact European settlers had with Indigenous nations, settlers schemed to divide and conquer the various prosperous nations, to exploit their labour and dispossess them of their lands, to create a new white nation abroad.
In the 1600s, relations are on an equal footing, as settlers have a limited foothold in the region. The Doctrine of Discovery and the legal concept of terra nullius are created, determine that Indigenous nations’ ownership of land is null and void die to their non-European styled societies. This provides “justification” to “Colonial governments [to] grant themselves absolute title to the land by virtue of ‘discovery.’”
Settlers used a mix of violent land dispossessions, coercion, manipulation and diplomacy in an attempt to continually secure more land. Indigenous nations firmly resist this process, but engage in land sharing agreements, which colonialists exploited to falsely claim that Indigenous nations had ceded their lands to the Crown.
During the late 1800s the Canadian government instituted the Indian Act, initiated residential schools (ie. genocide) which forcibly took Indigenous children from their families and created the colonial militia known as the Northwestern Mounted Police (now the RCMP). Residential schools were used to cripple the continued maintenance of culture, terrorize Indigenous peoples already illegally forced onto reserves, and force indigenous children to become European and give up on the culture, traditions and livelihoods which they had maintained for centuries.
The Northwest Mounted Police were a tool of genocide, acting as the colonial militia which seeked to forcibly dispossess Indigenous nations to the West of Turtle Island, while also putting down rebellion such as the Metis Red River Rebellion of 1885, led by Louis Riel.
The Indian Act provided the institutional framework for colonialism, was the prerequisite for the pass system which restricted Indigenous peoples to the reserve they were forced to by Canadian colonialists, and used a blatantly racist blood quorum system in an attempt to reduce the number of Indigenous nations they were required to meet their treaty obligations for.
Canadian colonialism continues to this day, with resource-based projects such as the Coastal GasLink pipeline being rammed through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.
Yet the settler majority seems not to grasp this reality. In a 2019 Leger poll, 71 per cent of respondents said they're proud of Canada's history. An Angus Reid poll that year showed that 53 per cent of respondents believe that “Canada spends too much time apologizing for residential schools – it’s time to move on”, while 40 per cent believe that treaties are “appropriately respected and honoured by Canada.
The settler majority’s false beliefs of reconciliation having been mostly completed stand in absolute contrast to reality.
Anglosphere imperialism and aggression against China
American funded and disseminated propaganda, motivated by their desire for imperial control of the entire world, has been the driving force behind the smear campaign and ongoing cold war against China. While Canada has its own imperialist foreign policy, it does ally itself with America and follow a similar path on these issues.
The Chinese Revolution, brought on by Mao Zedong’s victory in the civil war, in 1949, freed China from colonial control for the first time in a century. I previously detailed how China was colonized by the British here:
“The British declared a colonial war on China in 1839, in retaliation for their refusal to allow opium to be consumed for non-medical usage. By 1842, Britain had forcefully occupied Shangai, and China was forced to surrender. As a result, they were forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking, which ceded control of Hong Kong to Britain.
Further conflicts in the region around opium continued for decades, in which the British colonized further areas of China including parts of the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island. A “lease deal” was agreed upon in 1898, where control of the already colonized land of Hong Kong was officially given to the British.”
Canada had been working through that century to maintain British control of the country. Yves Engler details this here:
"Canada, as a loyal part of the Empire, aided the British conquest of China. Some Canadians fought in China and the British commander of the Canadian Militia from 1880-84, Lieutenant-General Richard George Amherst Luard, served there. In 1900 Canada was contracted to supply the British forces quelling the Boxer Rebellion. Canadian missionaries were also a significant force in China and they generally aided the foreign powers as detailed in “When Missionaries Were Hated: An Examination of the Canadian Baptist Defense of Imperialism and Missions during the Boxer Rebellion, 1900.”
By 1919 there were nearly 600 Canadian missionaries in China. Ottawa tacitly supported Japan’s brutal 1931 invasion of China’s Manchuria region that left 20,000 dead. Noted the Canadian diplomat who opened the first Canadian mission in Japan, Hugh Llewellyn Keenleyside:
“Whatever may be thought of the moral or ethical rights of the Japanese to be in and to exercise control over Manchuria their presence there must be recognized as a stabilizing and regulating force”
Six years later the Canadian ambassador to China, Randolph Bruce, told the Toronto Star that Japan’s invasion of Nanking, to the west of Manchuria, was
“simply an attempt to put her neighbour country into decent shape, as she has already done in Manchuria.”
Some 20,000 women were raped and tens of thousands of Chinese killed in the six weeks after Japan entered Nanking. After Japan lost control of Hong Kong, a Canadian ship, HMCS Prince Robert, assisted the British in re-occupying Hong Kong.
Canada supported the imperialist Kuomintang’s dictatorship in Taiwan, sending weapons and military aid their way, in particular between 1945 to 1948.
Canada’s aid programs in Africa and Asia were started in the years following the revolution in China, with the aim of preventing China from gaining influence in the region. Engler explained that Canada is actively pushing against China to this day:
“In June 2012 the Canadian Press reported, “Canada is seeking a deal with Singapore to establish a military staging post there as part of its effort to support the United States’ ‘pivot’ toward Asia to counter a rising China."
Canadian imperialism against China continues today
In recent years Canadian vessels have repeatedly been involved in belligerent “freedom of navigation” exercises through international waters that Beijing claims in the South China Sea, Strait of Taiwan and East China Sea.”
Canada has been a part of the angloshpere imperialist security group, Five Eyes, for decades.Five Eyes was described by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as a “supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries.”
Canada’s contributor to the group, the Communications Security Establishment has its own history of illegal activities. In the CCPA Monitor Asad Ismi labelled it the “espionage arm of corporate Canada”. One NSA document claimed CSE operated clandestine surveillance activities in “approximately 20 high-priority countries.”
In Spyworld: Inside the Canadian and American Intelligence Establishments, former CSE officer Michael Frost described CSE listening posts at a number of embassies or consular posts while two papers in the early 2000s cite Abidjan, Beijing, New Delhi, Bucharest, Rabat, Kingston (Jamaica), Mexico City, Rome, San Jose (Costa Rica), Warsaw and Tokyo as diplomatic posts where CSE (probably) collected information.
As I detailed previously, the Five Eyes network has worked extensively to block Chinese telecommunications network giant Huawei from building 5G networks around the world, without any evidence of spying by the company. Canada imprisoned Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in 2018, based on illegal sanctions against Iran, and has refused requests to end the extradition trial which could send Wanzhou sent to the US.
Canada blocked Huawei from participating in the building of 5G networks on August 25, 2020. On November 23, 2020, Telus was the last of Canada’s three telecom giants to confirm that it would build its 5G networks without Huawei.
The Canadian left is susceptible to false beliefs
There are many things that the Canadian left falsely believe about China, but the more prevalent and dangerous one is that China is running concentration camps targeting millions of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
This belief has become popular despite original reporting from the Grayzone, and analysis from The Canada Files and other anti-imperialist outlets, dispelling this popular myth.
The claim is made by Adrian Zenz, who Dere has described as a “German fundamentalist Christian zealot who opposes gay rights and gender equality, working out of Washington with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and alongside the US government-financed Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).” Zenz believes he is “led by God” on a “mission” against China.
The American funded CHRD group was behind the original report on Xinjiang, which only interviewed eight Uighur Muslims, while it was played off as a UN report, in an attempt to give the report credibility. To emphasize yet again, the first source for these claims was funded by the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT’S regime change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has also played a key role in pushing these claims. ASPI recieves extensive foreign funding, including from the US State Department, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), government of Japan, and NATO. Dere detailed how the claim of millions of Uighurs detained is utterly false:
“Where did the number 1 to 3 million Uyghurs detained by the Chinese government come from? Nobody really knows, as sources went around in a circle. The Western media said it came from the World Uyghur Congress. However, the Chairman of the WUC, Omer Kanat, when the same question in a video interview by Max Blumenthal, hesitatingly said, “Er, um, it was given to us by the Western media.”
The aforementioned Zenz is the figure who is cited most media reports about “Xinjiang genocide”. Zenz is the media face who was plucked from relative obscurity to lead this campaign.
The Chinese government responded to these wild claims by explaining that these camps were re-educational and vocational camps for former or potential Islamic militants in the region. Dere explained how this move was made due to the severe terror threat posed by the East Turkestan Islamic movement:
“The East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) was declared a terrorist organization by the US, the European Union and the UN Security Council Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. It, along with the Turkistan. Islamic Party, have recruited tens of thousands of Uyghurs to fight alongside Al-Qaeda in Syria. Many of these fighters return to Xinjiang to carry out the terror attacks in the region and elsewhere in China.”
The Grayzone detailed the danger posed to the Xinjiang region by the Turkestan Islamic Party:
“The Associated Press has reported that since “2013, thousands of Uighurs… have traveled to Syria to train with the Uighur militant group Turkistan Islamic Party and fight alongside al-Qaida,” with “several hundred join[ing] the Islamic State.”
The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) has been among the most recalcitrant forces operating in the Al Qaeda-controlled Idlib province, rejecting all ceasefire efforts while indoctrinating children into militancy. TIP leadership has called on foreign Muslims to wage jihad in Syria, publishing an online recruitment video in 2018 that celebrated the 9/11 attacks as holy retaliation against a decadent United States awash in homosexuality and sin.”
Claims have also been made, by Adrian Zenz of course, that the Chinese government is sterilizing Uighur women. Despite this, the Uighur population was never subject to the one-child policy which only ended in 2015, while from 2000 to 2015 the Uighur population increased from 8.3 million to 12 million.
Where does this leave the left in Canada?
Quite frankly, it leaves the left guilty of pushing imperialist propaganda from extremists, foreign funded think tanks and the United States government against the Chinese government.
The main Canadian social democratic party, the New Democratic Party, has pushed for increased military spending, supported the imperialist war in Libya, supported NATO, opposes the BDS movement while pushing for the anti-Palestine solidarity IHRA definition of anti-semitism, and pushed further smears against the Chinese government in relation to the Hong Kong National Security Law.
The Canadian left, social democrats in particular, have supported these imperialist parties despite repeated failures to make headway into changing party policy. They choose to push these baseless conspiracy theories against China despite extensive evidence rebutting these claims.
They have failed to advance even mild social democracy in Canada, yet ally themselves with Mike Pompeo, against a country working to progress towards socialism. Truly disgraceful.
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