Quirk: What's the ultimate objective of Harper's softer stance on China?

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July 25, 2011
Phil Lind Chair in US Politics and Representation, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia

In an old joke, a farmer whacks his supposedly obedient mule over the head with a two-by-four and explains, “First, you have to get his attention.”  Canada needs a strong relationship with China for many reasons, of which only the most obvious is China’s increasing role as a market for Canadian exports.   The interesting question is what got the government’s attention.

A major factor has been the lesson of recent developments in the United States.  Above all, the Americans’ current display of institutional incapacity in dealing with long-term budget deficits and the debt limit—with partisan brinkmanship carried right to the edge of economic catastrophe—has demonstrated the huge risks of having too many eggs in the American basket.  The era of American economic and political leadership in the world may be drawing to an end. Mr. Harper is moving some of Canada’s eggs to the China basket.