COMMENTARY: Canada’s new foreign minister must figure out how to deal with China

China, China, China.

Figuring out a strategy for how to get along with the growing economic and military colossus will likely be the major preoccupation of Canadian foreign ministers and governments for the rest of this century. It should dominate the foreign policy agenda for next few years.

Whatever her strengths and her alleged power within cabinet, Chrystia Freeland was not often able to get past the Prime Minister’s Office to criticize China, though she did not manage to clearly state recently Canada’s opposition to how Beijing was manhandling protesters in Hong Kong.

The Globe and Mail’s Steve Chase unearthed a nugget this week that strongly suggests that in Freeland’s successor at foreign affairs, Francois-Philippe Champagne, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has found another China fanboy to complement his new ambassador to the Court of Chairman Xi, Dominic Barton.

Only two years ago, Champagne praised the Xi government in an interview that he gave to the state-backed China Global Television Network.

This gushing declaration was of a piece with what Trudeau himself said six years ago, when he told a party fundraiser that the country that he most admired was China’s “basic dictatorship.”

Moreover, Champagne is a protégé and friend of Jean Chretien.

The former prime minister has been one of those loudly leading the charge to have Canada ignore its legal processes and end the extradition hearing of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who faces 13 charges of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in the U.S. in order to get China and Canada back to talking trade.

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