Should Canadians be wary of closer relations with China? That issue has been hotly debated as Canada's government considers entering negotiations toward a free trade agreement with the Asian giant. But what does China want, and what are the risks of dealing with its authoritarian regime? To shed light on these issues, MLI is pleased to present The Dragon at the Door, a collection of critical essays by credible experts on the distressing realities of 21st century China. In doing so, we hope to offer readers an honest guide to the unflattering truths of a country whose reputation Canada's present leaders insist on shielding as they tighten bilateral ties.

Dragon at the Door

The October 2017 issue of Inside Policy introduced our Dragon at the Door series. With an introductory article by Munk Senior Fellow Shuv Majumdar, this issue featured a range of articles by Commodore (Ret’d) Dr. Eric Lerhe, Harsh PantDuanjie Chen, and Charles Burton.

As Majumdar notes in his introductory essay, Canadians need to recognize that "China remains captive to a deeply regressive governing ideology." This series is meant to shed some light on the more troubling aspects of China’s rise under its leader Xi Jinping.

Other articles have since appeared, including by Peter Layton, Philip Cross, Andrew Pickford, David BrewsterDean Karalekas, as well additional contributions from Duanjie Chen and Charles Burton. All articles can be found here.

The Eavesdropping Dragon: Why Huawei has no place in Canadians' communication

As part of our Dragon at the Door series, MLI has taken the lead of the national conversation on why Canada should block the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from our next-generation 5G mobile networks.

MLI contributors who have made this case include former National Security Advisor Richard Fadden, Munk Senior Fellows Shuvaloy Majumdar and Marcus Kolga, professor Charles Burton, and new authors like Ivy Li. A full list of articles can be found here.

There are plenty of reasons why intelligence professionals are alarmed by Huawei’s involvement in our 5G networks, particularly, the close relationship between Huawei and a Chinese government with a history of cyberespionage.

Our allies have got the message. New Zealand, Australia and the United States have already announced they will ban Huawei from participating in their next-generation mobile data networks. Taiwan, Japan and countries in Europe are also getting increasingly cold feet. Canada should be next.


We featured a commentary by Malcolm Davis, Senior Analyst in Defence Strategy and Capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, exploring China’s military modernization and the challenge that it poses in the Western Pacific. A shortened version of this commentary was also published in ASPI's The Strategist.

Under the broad rubric of this project, we published a paper by Munk Senior Fellow Dr. Eric Lerhe, former Commander of the Canadian Pacific Fleet. This paper, titled Rethinking the Taiwan Question: How Canada can update its rigid “One-China” policy for the 21st century, argues that Canada does have a fair bit of room to liberalize its overly stringent one-China policy in its dealings with Taiwan, particularly as it relates to security collaboration.

Another paper by Taipei-based security analyst J. Michael Cole explored Chinese "sharp power" influence operations in Canada, which have used a variety of co-optation, bribery, incentivization, disinformation, censorship, and other methods. Titled The Hard Edge of Sharp Power: Understanding China’s Influence Operations Abroad, this paper examines the methods used by the Chinese Communist Party to influence countries like Canada and its allies, and what we should be doing to start defending ourselves.

Our newest report, authored by Munk Senior Fellow Duanjie Chen, makes the case that Canadian policy-makers may not fully appreciate the pitfalls of pursuing free trade with China. Titled Moving Beyond Rhetoric: Understanding the practical consequence of a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), Chen’s sobering paper takes a deep dive into the unforeseen consequences of a CCFTA and why Canadians should see such an agreement as a non-starter at this point. This report has been mentioned in stories in the National Post and Toronto Star.

Previous work

This project is the latest in a number of articles and commentaries exploring different aspects of China's rise, and how the West needs to manage it. In August 2017, MLI jointly published a paper with the Observer Research Foundation, which was voted as the top think tank in India in a prestigious set of international rankings.

In this paper, Brian Lee Crowley, Shuvaloy Majumdar and David McDonough point to the risk posed by a rising China and the case for a new Japan-India axis to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

“Only Japan and India have the strategic weight, economic heft, and shared values and interests in a liberal world order to counterbalance prospects of Chinese strategic predominance,” write Crowley, Majumdar and McDonough.

Other commentaries have explored the prospect of Canadian freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea (Adam Macdonald), the possibility of a broader Canadian role in the Indo-Pacific (Kerry Nankivell), why Canada should stand with the US against China and North Korea (Edward Luttwak), and the threat posed by Chinese state-owned enterprises (Roger Robinson). Other Inside Policy articles have looked to Canada-Australia cooperation in light of China's rise (John Blaxland, Andrew Davies, Peter Layton).

MLI Events

As Canada's government moves toward free trade with China, many Canadians are raising concerns that the ambitions of the Chinese regime are contrary to Canada's interests. Robin Sears and Tony Keller debated this issue at MLI's Great Canadian Debates on Dec 12. Click here to watch the video.

Last spring, we also hosted an event to discuss the security challenges of the proposed takeover of Aecon by a Chinese state-owned enterprise. This was attended by key stakeholders including diplomats, government bureaucrats and members of Parliament, and covered by CBC-TV, Postmedia and the Globe and Mail. We believe MLI played a key role in the government’s decision to block the deal.

We have cooperated with the Embassy of Japan to host two panel events – the first brought security experts from around the world to discuss the future of Indo-Pacific security cooperation, and the second featured business leaders and scholars to explore the future of energy security in the Indo-Pacific. A panel event in later 2018 looked at the threat posed by Chinese influence operations. And in February 2019, we hosted the national book launch for noted journalist Jonathan Manthorpe’s new book, Claws of the Panda: Beijing's Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada.