Canada is set to reveal its China strategy. For a sneak peek, look to Washington
Canada’s long-awaited strategy for dealing with China and the broader Indo-Pacific region might finally be released within days.
It’s taken a while. But two sources say the Trudeau government hopes to have the paper completed and out in public before the prime minister heads to Asia later this month.
Advance clues of some of its themes, however, are available in a place where public officials have spent years obsessing over this issue: the United States.
It’s no accident that Canadian ministers have been travelling to Washington lately to talk about trading more with allies or even decoupling from China.
It’s a textbook example of preaching to the choir. Or, to stick with the musical metaphor, it’s an example of singing from a common hymn book.
Political Washington under the last few administrations has been increasingly seized with girding itself for a generation of competition with China.
And the U.S. has made clear, for some time, that it’s eager to know where Canada stands in the century’s biggest geopolitical rivalry.
The U.S. already has strategy papers and books from current and past government officials and numerous trade actions, from tariffs on Chinese imports to several export bans forbidding certain high-tech products from being sold to China.
Sources say the Canadian policies won’t entirely replicate U.S. ones, but that one U.S. politician’s speech, in particular, resembles Ottawa’s thinking on China.
The speech was delivered earlier this year by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and it advocates two concurrent paths in working with China.
A 2-track approach
Track one: to keep trading with China and co-operating where possible, like on mutually beneficial issues involving public health and the environment. Yet some trade will be curtailed.
There’s the second, more antagonistic track laid out by Blinken. It involves limiting trade with China in a pair of areas: cutting-edge technology and vital goods where Chinese state-backed companies are pursuing a global monopoly.
Blinken mentioned semiconductors, steel and pharmaceuticals as examples.
“To the people of China: we’ll compete with confidence; we’ll co-operate wherever we can; we’ll contest where we must,” Blinken said in the speech earlier this year. “We want trade and investment as long as they’re fair and don’t jeopardize our national security.”
We’re already seeing signs of that two-track approach in U.S. trade data. American imports of toys and phones are still rising from China, yet imports of semiconductors and certain IT products are plunging.
There’s far more detail on the U.S. strategy in a multitude of public documents and also a new law aimed at getting more electric car components from Canada and fewer from China.
These official texts make for dry reading. Fortunately, more captivating copy is available.
An engrossing glimpse into the psyche of modern-day Washington comes in new books written by insiders working on China policy.
What Washington’s insiders foresee
One such book comes from the current head of China policy in the White House’s National Security Council, written before he took the job.
Rush Doshi combed through thousands of Chinese documents dating back decades for his book The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order.
Its central thesis is that China spent years lulling the U.S. into a false sense of security while concealing its goal of supplanting the U.S.-led liberal order.
It says China is moving onto the final phase of its strategy — where it pushes U.S. forces out of the western Pacific; reclaims Taiwan; and re-engineers international institutions and technology standards in ways that benefit authoritarian and illiberal governments, while selling those governments surveillance equipment to squash any opposition.
After laying out several possible U.S. responses, Doshi urges a so-called middle path. Not friendly, nor overtly hostile — but a bit like what Blinken describes.
In summary: deny China access to cutting-edge technology; invest in scientific research at home; build international alliances; and create new, friendlier trade networks for critical products.
Book predicts big shift: a scared, struggling China
There’s an even more provocative book — enthusiastically endorsed by former defence secretary James Mattis — co-authored by former senior strategists at the Pentagon who still play advisory roles.
The central argument is that China is about to hit a rough patch — it will grow in power during the 2020s, then suffer a long, painful slowdown starting in the 2030s.
That’s because three magical conditions that enabled China’s decades-long rise are set to expire, says the book, Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China.
China’s population exploded but will now shrink. The world flung open its doors to Chinese trade but is now building barriers. China liberalized its economy but is now reverting to state controls.
That, says the book, triggers an entirely new threat.
“That’s when we should get really worried. What happens when a country that wants the world concludes that it might not be able to get it peacefully?” says the book. “The answer, history suggests, is nothing good.… Some of history’s deadliest wars were started by revisionist powers whose future no longer looked so bright.”
The book argues that autocracies, especially, turn more aggressive when they start doubting the inevitability of their rise. At home, they’re paranoid about threats to their rule, and in foreign affairs, they’re desperate to claim wins while they still can.
It points to examples from Ancient Greece as well as Russia in the early 1900s, Germany before the First World War and Japan before the Second World War.
Hence the name of the book, Danger Zone: it predicts we’ll enter a perilous stretch over the next few years as China sees its best, perhaps last, opportunity to seize Taiwan.
Reclaiming that island, the authors say, is not just an issue of patriotic sentiment to the Chinese government, but a strategic cure for its upcoming ills.
It would extend China’s military reach over the sea, provide a gigantic de facto aircraft carrier and turn over Taiwan’s world-dominating semiconductor and advanced chip industry.
In an interview, book co-author Hal Brands said any such war would primarily unfold in Asia, but he said North America would suffer the effects, from economic impacts to cyberattacks.
“Homelands will not be sanctuaries,” said Brands, special assistant to the U.S. defence secretary for strategic planning in 2015 and 2016, and former lead writer on the team that produces the U.S. National Defence Strategy.
His book offers lessons from the early Cold War, in the late 1940s, when the Soviet Union was in its most dominant position — but says the U.S. kept it at bay, through diplomacy, alliance-building and military deterrence.
The book says setting priorities is key. And a top priority it identifies should, by now, sound familiar.
A role for Canada in this new world
The book argues that past superpowers were built by dominating their era’s critical technology — the British with steam and iron; the U.S. with steel and electronics; and now, China sees artificial intelligence, telecommunications and quantum computing as keys to future power.
Here’s where there’s a role for Canada. Danger Zone urges the creation of a free-world economic bloc for emerging technology, like a club for high-tech trade, or a digital alliance.
“Canada has a non-trivial role to play,” Brands said.
There are signs Ottawa also sees this as an ideal niche for Canada. It’s spending billions to get a critical minerals and electric battery industry going, as are individual provinces.
Canada just forced three Chinese companies to sell their holdings in Canadian mineral firms and threatened to block future purchases by its state-run companies.
In addition, Canada just asked to join the new U.S.-led Indo-Pacific trade group, and has the U.S.’s backing.
For months, trade insiders — indeed, even the Canadian government — questioned the point of signing onto that group, given that it’s not a formal trade agreement and there’s already a similar informal club of its type for the Americas.
But the Canadian business lobby urged Ottawa to sign onto the Indo-Pacific alliance, arguing Canada had to be part of its discussions involving new supply chains.
“It’s imperative that Canada has a seat at the table,” said Trevor Kennedy, vice-president for trade policy at the Business Council of Canada.
Yet there are ongoing challenges.
Critic suggests Canada is more talk than action
Canada’s critical-minerals industry is in its infancy, with some projects starting but the industry facing serious obstacles.
One Washington critic of Canadian trade policies says Canada talks a great game about wanting to move supply chains from China, but doesn’t follow through.
Charles Benoit, a Canadian-American trade lawyer and counsel with a pro-reshoring group based in Washington, expressed disbelief that Canadian cabinet ministers would come to Washington to talk about decoupling from China.
He said it’s the United States, not Canada, that has slapped wide-ranging tariffs on China in retaliation for intellectual property theft; Benoit said those tariffs have helped restore some manufacturing in the U.S.
And he said it’s the U.S., not Canada, pushing for the highest level of North American content in cars under the new continental trade agreement; Mexico and Canada are suing the U.S. for it.
“They’re actually working against decoupling,” said Benoit, of the Coalition for a Prosperous America.
We’ll soon see Ottawa’s plans for walking this delicate line.
Numerous federal departments are involved in the Indo-Pacific strategy, and barring any last-minute snags, it’ll be out when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves for Asia.
So trade with China will continue. In fact, Canada’s product sales to China are still growing from year to year, and sources say the incoming strategy will encourage some of that, as Blinken did.
But let’s put those exports to China in context: they represent barely four per cent of Canada’s worldwide total, and that share hasn’t really budged for years.
We have a far bigger customer next door.
And the Americans foresee a world with new limits on trade with China. It appears we’re entering that world, too.
How 'severe and unusual' smoke from Canadian wildfires is spreading and what it means for your health – CBC.ca
Vast portions of eastern Canada and the United States are covered in smoke and haze, as wildfires continue to rage out of control in Quebec and other provinces.
The smoke has prompted air quality warnings in many cities and towns in Quebec, Ontario and beyond in Canada, and resulted in hazy, apocalyptic skies and warnings in places like New York City and Washington, D.C.
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CBC News spoke to experts and consulted recent studies to show the potential health impacts of the smoke in the air — and the extent to which it has spread across North America.
“The levels of air pollution that we’re seeing today are severe and unusual in Canada and in parts of the U.S.,” said Rebecca Saari, an air quality expert and associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Waterloo.
“These are poor air quality days, especially in certain areas, where people should be aware and protecting themselves.”
She says such events are likely to be more common as climate change intensifies and prolongs the hot, dry conditions that wildfires need to thrive.
For June, the fire risk is considered well above average in almost every province and territory. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the risk is considered average. In P.E.I., the risk is low across the island.
Overall, people across Canada are facing an especially difficult wildfire season, and federal government officials have said their modelling shows increased wildfire risk in most of the country through August.
Roughly 130 forest fires are currently burning in Quebec, with just under 100 of them considered out of control.
A storm system off the eastern coast of Nova Scotia has pushed the smoke from those fires toward Ontario and to the U.S., with poor visibility as far south as North Carolina and into the Midwest.
It has also spread further east, and officials as far as Norway warned the smoke could affect air quality there on Thursday.
The air quality improved early Thursday in Ontario and Quebec, but was forecast to get worse in many parts of Ontario again later in the day and through the weekend.
How bad is the haze?
Different countries use different indexes to measure air quality.
While the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) used in Canada reflects current knowledge of the health effects associated with air pollution and measures on a scale of 10, the Air Quality Index (AQI) used in the U.S. is based on air quality standards and is measured on a scale of 0 to 500. The higher the value, the greater the level of air pollution.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the AQI exceeded a staggering 400 at times in Syracuse, New York City and Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. A level of 50 or under is considered good; anything over 300 is considered “hazardous.”
Meanwhile, the air quality in Toronto ranked among the worst in the world for much of Wednesday, near the level of Delhi, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh, according to IQair, an online service that monitors and tracks air quality using the AQI.
The levels in Kingston and points further east in Ontario were considerably worse on both scales.
Those areas had among the highest levels of particulate matter — known as PM2.5 levels — in the country.
Those particles are so small — 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair — that they can go into the lungs and into the bloodstream, said Dr. Samir Gupta, a respirologist and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
“So you can imagine the havoc that they wreak in the lungs themselves,” he said. “That’s the most sensitive organ to all of this in terms of breathing symptoms, particularly people who have underlying lung conditions like asthma.”
Air quality in terms of cigarettes
A recent Stanford University study quantified what breathing in that particulate matter would mean in terms of cigarettes.
According to the study, an AQI measurement of 20 is equivalent to smoking one cigarette a day.
The study noted that exposure to wildfire smoke causing an AQI of 150 for several days would be equivalent to smoking about seven cigarettes a day if someone were outside the whole time.
By that calculation, Kingston residents who spent eight hours outside Wednesday smoked the equivalent of nine cigarettes.
Most of Western Canada had a break from the smoky air after struggling with poor quality last month, though some regions, including Vancouver, were designated as “moderate risk.”
If an area has been designated as “very high risk,” Environment Canada advises the general population to reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities.
It recommended that at-risk populations, such as young children, seniors and those with chronic conditions, to avoid strenuous activities altogether.
Many of the tips people picked up during the pandemic are useful now, said Scott Weichenthal, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health at McGill University in Montreal.
“If you have to work outside, wear a mask, a proper mask that filters out the small particles, like an N95 mask,” he said.
“If you don’t need to be outside when it’s very polluted, don’t be.”
Bank of Canada raises key interest rate – CTV News
The Bank of Canada raised its overnight rate by 25 basis points to 4.75 per cent on Wednesday, its first increase since pausing hikes in January. The central bank’s key interest rate has not been this high since April 2001.
Several factors led to the bank’s decision to raise the key interest rate, including economic growth in Canada. Gross Domestic Product exceeded expectations in the first quarter of this year, growing by 3.1 per cent.
The central bank says demand in the economy has rebounded, with surprisingly strong consumer spending. Housing market activity has picked up again and the Canadian labour market remains tight.
“Overall, excess demand in the economy looks to be more persistent than anticipated,” reads the release.
In April, inflation increased for the first time in 10 months to 4.4 per cent. The bank still expects inflation to decline to 3 per cent by this summer, but concerns remain that inflation could get stuck above the 2 per cent target.
“Goods price inflation increased, despite lower energy costs,” reads the statement. “Services price inflation remained elevated, reflecting strong demand and a tight labour market.”
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada has made meaningful progress, with inflation dropping from its peak of 8.1 per cent last year to 4.4 per cent in April.
“The Bank of Canada has predicted that inflation will fall to 3 per cent this summer,” Freeland said to reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday. “We are very close to the end of this difficult time and to a return to low stable inflation and strong steady growth.”
The federal government has faced criticism from the opposition over its fiscal spending and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is sounding the alarm on Canada’s household debt problem.
“This is on the verge of becoming a crisis and that is an overused term,” Poilievre said during a caucus speech to his party in Ottawa. “As these hundreds of billions of dollars of debt collide with massive increases in interest rates there will be a severe default crisis.”
Global inflation also remains high. Despite this, the economies of the United States and China are beginning to slow down and Europe’s economy has stalled.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) projects the global economy to grow moderately by 2.7 per cent in 2023 and global inflation to decline to 6.6 per cent this year, according to its economic outlook.
“Core inflation is proving sticky, on the back of strong service increases and higher profits in some sectors,” reads the OECD Economic Outlook. “Monetary Policy should remain restrictive until there are clear signs that underlying inflationary pressures are durably reduced.”
Going forward, the Bank of Canada’s Governing Council will focus mainly on inflation expectations, wage growth, corporate pricing and excess demand to ensure these factors are in line with the inflation target.
The next scheduled rate announcement is expected on July 12, 2023.
Forest fire smoke envelops Toronto, bringing poor air quality, pollution
Environment Canada has increased the air quality risk level for Toronto on Wednesday, up from Tuesday, as forest fire smoke continues to blanket the city.
A special air quality statement remained in place for the city on Wednesday night, saying high levels of pollution had developed due to the wildfires in Quebec and northeastern Ontario.
The federal weather agency predicts Toronto will reach a risk level of nine on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) on Thursday. The index measures air quality based on how it will impact health. That number indicates high risk during the day and means people may want to consider cancelling outdoor activities.
“There’s a ridge over Ontario right now, so it means these winds are consistently bringing in poor air quality,” said Trudy Kidd, an operational metrologist with Environment Canada.
On Tuesday, the city was at moderate risk and on a level five on the scale of one to ten.
Moderate risk levels mean the general population need not cancel “usual activities” unless you start to experience symptoms like throat or cough irritation. For at-risk populations at that risk level, people are urged to consider rescheduling outdoor activities if symptoms are present, according to Environment Canada.
Those with lung disease, such as asthma, people with heart disease, older people, children, pregnant people and those who work outside are at higher risk of experiencing health effects, the agency said.
Don’t light campfires, premier says
Premier Doug Ford commented on the wildfires and poor conditions on Wednesday during question period, urging the public refrain from lighting campfires.
Ford said half of the forest fires in Ontario were started by lightning strikes and the other half were caused by human activity, such as campfires not being properly extinguished.
When the index indicates a high level of risk, the general population should consider rescheduling or reducing outdoor activities if symptoms are experienced. At-risk populations should reschedule outdoor activities, according to Environment Canada.
“Stop those outdoor activities and contact a health-care provider, if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath or wheezing, asthma attacks, cough, dizziness or chest pains,” Kidd said.
“Poor air quality will persist into the weekend,” Environment Canada said. The agency’s most recent statement was firmer than Tuesday, as the agency previously said there were hopes the conditions would ease by the weekend. A low pressure system that could bring in cleaner air may arrive by Sunday, Kidd said.
“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations. Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke,” Environment Canada said.
Air quality and visibility due to the wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour. But wildfire smoke can be harmful even at low concentrations, it said.
Wear a mask if outside, Environment Canada suggests
If you must spend time outdoors, Environment Canada recommends wearing a well-fitted respirator type mask, such as an N95, to help reduce exposure to fine particles in smoke.
“These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health. However, respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases in wildfire smoke,” the federal weather agency said.
Environment Canada recommends the following:
- If you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing, severe cough, dizziness or chest pains, stop outdoor activities and contact your health care provider.
- If you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms, stay inside.
- Keep your indoor air clean.
- Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable.
- Take a break from the smoke by temporarily relocating or finding a place in your community with clean, cool air such as a library, shopping mall or community centre.
- If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator type mask that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and your face can help reduce your exposure to fine particles in smoke.
- Be sure to check on people in your care and those who may be more susceptible to smoke.
- Evacuate if told to do so.
- Review your wildfire smoke plan and make sure you have enough medical supplies if the smoke continues to be an issue.
Toronto-area school board moves recess indoors
Due to the air quality warning for the Toronto area, one school board in the region has opted to move recess inside for safety, while others say they are monitoring the situation.
The York Catholic District School Board said in a statement on Tuesday evening that indoor recess would be held indoors all day on Wednesday due to poor air quality.
The Peel District School Board said Tuesday that “strenuous outdoor activities” scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday would be cancelled, including athletic events. While outdoor recess is allowed to continue, it encouraged students to “avoid strenuous activity” and stay inside if they chose.
The Toronto District School Board made the same changes and issued the same guidance as Peel. Further, it said “TDSB schools will also ensure that HEPA air filters are continuing to be used,” and it will monitor the situation. The Toronto Catholic District School Board left the choice up to schools, stating that it recommends indoor recess be considered along with possibly rescheduling activities.
The Dufferin Catholic District School Board said it will also keep an eye on the air quality on Wednesday and that it would be going ahead with field trips due to difficulties in rescheduling.
Schools aren’t the only thing in the city that’s affected — in an e-mail sent to CBC News, Toronto Blue Jays spokesperson Madeleine Davidson said that due to poor air quality, the dome is closed for Wednesday night’s baseball game.
On Wednesday night, the Toronto Zoo said it would limit its hours from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday due to poor air quality from the smoke and provide protective masks to staff and volunteers required to work outdoors.
The zoo said it would also limit access to the outdoors for some animals as well as limit the amount of time that staff and volunteers work outside.
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