Public opinion is growing skeptical on promoting more and new economic ties with China, Canada’s second largest trading partner after the US, according to an Angus Reid poll.
The survey polled 1,499 Canadians and found that Canadians’ positive views of trade with China are starting to wane. The now yearlong imprisonment of two Canadians by Beijing was a recent development in the changing attitude towards the super power.
Many Canadians responded with concerns for human rights in China, and seven-in-ten felt the rule of law should take greater precedence in our relationship. That number is up from the last time Angus Reid polled Canadians on the issue back in February 2019, when 62 percent of people said the same.
In 2015, the poll found that 62 percent said that we should increase trade ties with China in the future, that number dropped by 40 percent this year, now only 22 percent of people feel that way.
Two thirds of Canadians now hold an unfavourable view of China, a number that was only 51 percent back in 2018.
Ottawa has had close ties with Beijing in the past due to the country’s roaring economy needing lots of natural resources.
During Chretien’s time as Prime minister he sent many large delegations of cabinet ministers and government officials on trade junkets to China.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited China on a state visit back in 2017 in an attempt to kick-start free trade talks with Beijing but the trip was ultimately unsuccessful.
Trade only looks increasingly bleak with the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
Ninety percent of respondents said China can’t be trusted on human rights and the rule of law.
The overall views on trade with China were mixed. While respondents were more likely to acknowledge that trade with China has a negative impact on our economy and communities they also felt it was to Canada’s economic benefit as a whole.
The highest level of negative sentiment towards China’s restrictions on beef and canola export came from Alberta and Saskatchewan, the two provinces affected most by the restrictions.
The future of trade was a close split in terms of Canadians optimism towards the relationship. Fifty-four percent of respondents to the poll said that the current diplomatic spat will sort itself out and things will go “back to normal.” While the other forty-six percent felt the relationship is in long-term trouble.