Former Diplomat Says West Has ‘Fantasy’ View Of China

Former diplomat says West has 'fantasy' view of China

Donna Jacobs
The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, September 08, 2008

Canadians have fallen for a Chinese government “charm offensive,” says a former Canadian diplomat and specialist on Chinese mafia “Triad” gangs and Communist China's government-directed espionage in Canada.

“I think politicians have to take off rose-coloured glasses and realize what China is all about,” says Brian McAdam. “The Canadian government thinks it has to pander to China's needs and to align its foreign policy towards China. This is foolhardy.”

Mr. McAdam had a 30-year career in Canada's diplomatic service with assignments in Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean and the Far East. His career ended soon after he discovered a lucrative visa-for-sale scam operating inside Canada's consulate in Hong Kong.

He spent several years warning the Canadian government that Canada was admitting Chinese criminals and government spies. Immigration and External Affairs (now Foreign Affairs and International Trade) ignored his consular reports.

Ostracized and in ill-health, Mr. McAdam took early retirement in 1993, at age 51. However, he later instigated a joint CSIS-RCMP investigation, Project Sidewinder, which, in its 1997 report, confirmed his findings.

“This document,” said the Sidewinder Report preface, “does not present theories but indicators of a multifaceted threat to Canada's national security based on concrete facts drawn from the databanks of the two agencies involved (RCMP and CSIS), classified reports from allied agencies and various open sources.” A few days after the Sidewinder team submitted its report, CSIS ordered all copies destroyed and the investigation disbanded. CSIS justified the report's destruction as “conspiracy theories — rumour and innuendo.”

Mr. McAdam has now become an international consultant, expert and author on Triads, Chinese Intelligence Services, their partnership and activities in Canada and worldwide.

He says that five myths perpetuate the West's “fantasy” view of China.

Myth 1: Trade with China benefits Canada

“How many times have you heard that China is now Canada's second largest trading partner?” asks Mr. McAdam. “This means that China is our second-largest source of imports after the U.S. — not that our trade with China has improved.”

He notes that China now exports more than four times as much to Canada ($38.3 billion) as we are selling to them ($9.3 billion). Statistics Canada says the Canadian trade deficit with China expanded from $3.9 billion in 1997 to $26.8 billion in 2006.

“China is really using Canada almost as a colony,” says Mr. McAdam, “getting raw materials from us and selling them back to us in finished products ranging from furniture and clothes to plastics and high-tech equipment.

“Canada doesn't need China,” he says. “China needs Canada.”

Myth 2: China has 1.3 billion customers

“It's a mirage — there are one billion peasants who cannot afford a bottle of Coke,” Mr. McAdam says. The real customer base is 300,000 — people with privileged government positions.

He says that the West's widespread trade deficits with China spring from low wages and prisoner slave labour, counterfeit products and pirated intellectual property.

While a few Canadian companies make money in China, he says, the fantasy of broad-based beneficial trade has been “created by people to justify” a close relationship with China.

Myth 3: China is becoming a democratic nation

“Trade has not brought democracy to China and never will,” says Mr. McAdam. Nor will it bring China free speech, free media, free worship or free demonstrations — graphically confirmed in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and this year in Tibet.

He quotes Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who said last year that “democracy is probably still 100 years away.”

Myth 4: China has improved human rights

With Olympic visitors gone home, Mr. McAdam predicts, China “will crack down” on its citizens.

Mr. McAdam laments that “nobody is really taking China to task over its human rights violations.” Even in Canada, Chinese migrs and students are “intimidated by the Chinese government, which leads them to think that they, or their families back home, will be harmed — unless they spy.” This includes some targeted students, scientists, businessmen, foreign delegations and public servants, he says.

Most of the Chinese media in Canada are controlled by the Communist government or its proxies, says Mr. McAdam. “The information that the Chinese population is getting here in Canada — they might as well live in Communist China.”

Myth 5: China is benign

“China is engaged in a stunning espionage effort, buying … its way towards high-tech superpower status as fast as it can,” says Mr. McAdam. “It wants to have the world's best military.”

Ten months ago, the U.S. government concluded, in a 350-page analysis titled 2007 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission: “China is supplementing the technologies that its defense industry obtains through commercial transfers and direct production partnerships with an aggressive and large-scale industrial campaign. Chinese espionage activities in the United States are so extensive that they comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies.”

(The Sidewinder Report, incidentally, had reached a similar conclusion in Canada: “China remains one of the greatest ongoing threats to Canada's national security and Canadian industry. There is no longer any doubt that the ChIS [Chinese Intelligence Services] have been able to gain influence in important sectors of the Canadian economy, including education, real estate, high technology, security and many others. In turn, it [influence] gave them access to economic, political and some military intelligence of Canada.”)

In 2005, during question period, Stephen Harper, then-Conservative leader of the Opposition, criticized the Liberal government for not taking the Chinese espionage threat seriously.

“Today the former head of the CSIS Asia desk (Michel Juneau-Katsuya) confirmed reports from defectors that close to 1,000 Chinese government agent spies have infiltrated Canada,' said Mr. Harper. He quoted Mr. Juneau-Katsuya's estimate that Chinese spies cost Canada $1 billion each month through industrial espionage. Mr. McAdam's conclusion today: “China has dangled billions of dollars of trade, seducing many countries into ignoring human rights issues in China and allowing China to acquire their industrial and military secrets.

“Canada's foreign policy in a nutshell, is 'Shhh, don't upset China because it might affect trade.'

“We need politicians, the media, and others to tell the truth to Canadians and not continue the fantasies. And Canadians must let the government know that a comprehensive China policy based upon facts is long overdue.”

Donna Jacobs is an Ottawa writer; her e-mail address is