Friday, September 2, 2016

The Wrong Billion

I have been at the APSA this week, so blogging has been light and I have not really read much on Trudeau's China trip.  I have seen some tweets wondering if Canada is bending too much towards China and away from US. 

My first reaction is that trying to do some deals with China does not mean Canada is dumping the US or moving away from US.  The US will always come first and foremost.  Other allies have engaged China in ways that do not fall 100% in line with the US, and it has been fine. 

My second reaction, however, is that this Prime Minister will learn what previous PM's have learned: China is a crappy partner.  The Chinese don't like the rules of the international order that have long benefited Canada, and tend to do stuff that cuts at that international order.  At the more micro-level, firms are seduced by attraction of large market to do business in China and then find out it can be very Soprano's like--having to share profits, having to spend money on employees that don't work, etc. 

So, my third reaction is this: if you want to improve access to a market with a billion people, how about focusing on the one where the shared values/interests are much higher (even if the country has flaws like an ethnonationalist leader, not perfectly handling a secessionist region, etc).  That is, why focus on China and not India?  India is more likely to pay benefits down the road, and working with India is less likely to help perpetuate an authoritarian regime that is actively engaged in challenging the international order. 

Canada can try to improve relations with China, but there are real reasons why Canada and others have a hard time doing business in and with China.  And those real reasons aren't going away.  So, manage the China relationship, but build a better India relationship.*

* No, these are not entirely mutually exclusive options, but they kind of are.  More on that some other time.  Back to APSA.

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