Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou on December 1, 2018 for allegedly violating US sanctions against Iran. Mainstream news coverage rarely foregrounds what her arrest means on a global scale, preferring to focus on Meng through the racist and individualizing lens of a “crazy rich Asian” stereotype. But Meng’s arrest represents Canada’s allegiance with the US against China, and a ramping up of aggression by Western powers that brings humanity one step closer to a Third World War.
Much more is at stake with Meng’s extradition trial than her personal freedom. In Western Canada, the trial is a fulcrum of rising anti-Chinese racism and imperial anxieties about China’s increasing economic power and shift from being a manufacturing centre to a global financier. The US and its allies would prefer that China remain the “world’s sweatshop” than develop financial and technological infrastructure that threaten the economic and political dominance of Western states and corporations, which is why the US is encouraging its allies to reject Huawei’s 5G technology.
Opposing Meng’s extradition is an anti-war position
We say that sanctions on Iran are an act of war, and that Canada’s arrest and extradition of Meng Wanzhou shows that Canada is joining arms with the US in defence of its empire. This “old power” Canada-US-EU bloc is taking up diplomatic, economic, and legal warfare techniques against China through the person of Meng Wanzhou.
War is the continuation of politics by other means, and the politics of Meng Wanzhou’s extradition is a prelude to war. We are rallying against war with China, against war with Iran, and against the racist, Canadian chauvinist politics on display around Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearings.
Western hostility toward China does nothing for the world’s Indigenous and working class people
China’s economic rise does threaten Euro-American dominance over the world, and Huawei’s role in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” strategy is part of that threat. The joint state and corporate development of Chinese shipping routes, tech and communications infrastructure, and manufacturing and resource extraction economies are moving confidently into the globalized world that the US, and to a lesser degree, the EU, has comfortably dominated for decades.
Arresting Meng Wazhou for violating US sanctions on Iran is a direct, diplomatic challenge to the growing presence of Chinese corporations in the Middle East and North Africa. But there is no outcome of this conflict that will benefit the masses of working class and Indigenous people all over the world who are suffering under global capitalism, the international system that, contradictorily, tethers together the interests of the Chinese and Canadian states while also setting them up as direct competitors in a conflict that can and may lead to war.
In the rivalry between capitalist powers, old and new, the people of the world can only lose. Miners in Canadian-owned mines across Africa have nothing to gain from the West’s sinophobic sabre-rattling, which relies on a racist yellow peril to characterize the capitalism of liberal, Western bourgeois-democratic states as “benevolent” foils to China’s “sinister” capitalist projects. Meanwhile, China’s characterization of its capitalist resource extraction and infrastructure developments as “South-South cooperation” does similarly little for Africa’s working class.
But while China may be currently challenging US global hegemony in terms of hard economic power, the West still marshalls far more ideological, or “soft”, power than China does. That means that nearly everywhere on earth, a Western vision of liberal, global capitalism (which includes its imperial and colonial forms) has more sway and appeal than the “Chinese model,” which relies on a kind of public-private partnership in which the public state holds more power than private capitalists.
Canada’s media and politicians never lose an opportunity to valorize the Western liberal world order and villanize Xi Jinping’s China as a new yellow peril. In this global context, we think that leftists in Canada must, at every turn, expose the hypocrisy of critiques of China that hinge on and reinforce Canadian nationalism.
Who does Canada’s war on China serve?
Canada’s “national interest” is a myth, held together by white supremacy and settler-colonialism. There is no “national” Canadian interest capable of upholding both contradictory ends of settler-colonial land theft and Indigenous sovereignty; the rule of bosses and landlords and working class democracy; a multiculturally-inflected white supremacy and the liberation of racialized people.
Canada’s war on China papers over the conflicts within Canadian society, projecting them onto a racialized scapegoat supposedly responsible for everything from the housing crisis to the opioid crisis. Canadian capitalists are by far the beneficiaries of the myth that Canada’s “national interests” benefit all Canadians and that mainland China is a threat to these imperial benefits.
In British Columbia, the NDP’s David Eby leads with the torch of 21st century anti-Chinese racism, defending its policies as “not racist” by using the dog whistle of “foreign investment” instead of openly condemning Chinese people. But anti-elitist rhetoric doesn’t cancel out racism. NDP-aligned progressives, labour bureaucrats and urban professional-managerial workers, are quick to get behind Canadian imperialism because their jobs are to administer the privileged access to Indigenous lands and global markets enjoyed by Canadian companies and some settlers.
The vast majority of workers in Canada, especially those who are migrants, racialized, and struggling to survive, have more to gain by opposing Canadian imperialism and their own exploitation than by buying into it.
No War on China!
Opposing Canada’s diplomatic cold war on China means, first and foremost, opposing Canadian imperialism.
As anti-Chinese Canadian nationalism rises, the space for public dissent and critique has narrowed to the point where any opposition to Canada’s sinophobic policies is automatically dismissed as pro-Chinese propaganda by both the mainstream left and right. This censorious atmosphere is a prelude to war and demonstrates the dire need for a strong, clear-eyed movement against the war on China.
Opposing Canada’s war on China means recognizing and fighting Canadian expressions of sinophobia, which naturalize and sanitize the violences of Canadian settler-colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. That includes recognizing and fighting how Canadian imperialists justify aggression toward China by mobilizing reports about human rights violations in China to legitimize and naturalize the global power of the US and its allies, and by conflating all of Chinese society and Chinese people with the ruling Communist Party of China. But condemning China’s settler-colonial project in Xinjiang by supporting the Canadian state’s attacks on Chinese power is not principled anti-colonialism; it’s imperialist opportunism.
No matter how repressive a foreign state is, Canadian imperialism cannot and will never be a progressive tool to solve the problems of those states. Canadian imperialism is part of and depends on the global crises of capitalism threatening Indigenous and working class people all over the world, and as anti-imperialists located here, our primary responsibility is to oppose the imperialism of our own state, in solidarity with Indigenous and working class people all over the world.