• By: Dan Donovan

Chinese Foreign Minister and Canada’s Global Affairs Minister Seek to Mend Ties Amidst Strained Relations

In a hopeful development, Canadian Global Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, spoke yesterday in a call that appears to be part of a recalibrated effort to reset the strained bilateral relations between the two countries.

The relationship between China and Canada has faced numerous challenges in recent years. In 2023, Canada accused China of interfering in its elections—an allegation consistently denied by Beijing. This followed the so-called ‘Meng-Two Michaels affair’ that began in December 2018 with the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition warrant at the request of the United States, which significantly strained the ties between the two countries. In retaliation, China detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, on espionage charges. In September 22021, Kovrig and Spavor were both released from detention in China, and Meng was released from house arrest in Canada. Despite this, the diplomatic fallout of the affair has remained a significant source of tension, impacting trade, economic cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges. Tensions in the relationship escalated again last May when Beijing expelled a Canadian diplomat in response to Ottawa’s directive for a Toronto-based Chinese diplomat to leave. Last October, China filed a complaint, alleging a violation of its sovereignty and national security by a Canadian military plane.

In addressing the challenges between the two countries, Wang Yi conveyed in a statement after the call Thursday that the decline in China-Canada relations stemmed from a significant misalignment in Canada’s perception of China. “China is open to contacts and talks,” Wang stated, emphasizing the need for mutual respect, equal dialogue, trust-building, and dispelling doubts.

According to Global Affairs Canada, Yi and Joly discussed key collaboration priorities, including joint efforts to combat climate change and deepen economic and people-to-people ties. Both ministers highlighted the importance of maintaining open communication lines. Yi and Joly also found common ground on several global and regional issues. Discussions included the Israel-Hamas conflict, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the ongoing “challenges and opportunities” in the Indo-Pacific region.

For his part, Yi urged Canada to interpret China’s domestic and foreign policies objectively, rationally, and correctly, emphasizing the need for a more accurate understanding.

Statistics Canada data reports show that Canada imported a record CA $100,027,968,000 billion of goods from China last year — the highest amount ever — up 16 percent from $86 billion in 2021. According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Canadian exports to China were CA$29.14 billion in 2022.

The January 11th call signified a shared willingness to address bilateral challenges and explore avenues for collaboration on pressing global matters, providing a glimmer of hope for a potential improvement in China-Canada relations.