By 2050, expert economic forecasters predict that the United States will lose its position as the world’s largest economy in terms of GDP. Already in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), China is the world leader. But by 2050, it is thought that the US will fall from its number one position to number three – behind both China and India, while only two European economies, Germany and Britain will be in the top ten. Today, Canada is the tenth largest economy in the world, but by 2050 Canada is expected to fall to the position of the world’s 22nd largest economy.
Canadian leaders should therefore handle their projected fall from a position of economic influence and power with more grace and circumspection than they are currently doing. Even while the US will likely remain in the top three economies of the world by 2050, the US should also learn to embrace humility from a position of strength because when one’s strength diminishes, one necessarily becomes more reliant on the good will of others. This is true both in one’s personal life and in the economic life of nations.
While the US has long used and will likely continue to use sanctions, tariffs and extra-judicial extremism as weapons against foreign powers, including those which have committed no act of aggression against its people or interests, Canada has joined in with its southern neighbour, albeit from a much weaker position. As the US made two seemingly politicised arrests of two Chinese accused of “cyber attacks”, the Canadian media jumped in on the bandwagon and accused unnamed Chinese of conducting such attacks on Canada.
China has denied having any links to state induced cyber attacks but even if China’s statements are ignored by Canada, ultimately, Canada must learn humility for the sake of its own prosperity. Unlike the United States and some of its closest allies including Canada, China does not use sanctions, tariffs and threatening language in order to get its way in the world. China’s model of economic openness, respect for the national sovereignty of foreign partners and respect for the cultural characteristics of its partners differs greatly from a western mentality that seeks to use both coercion and force to remark the world in an American or European image.
But while the British Empire (of which Canada was a major part) used force to destroy Chinese society with narcotics during the so-called Opium Wars of the 19th century, now that China is both militarily and economically mightier than Britain, China has not sought to extract vengeance for the past wrongdoings of Britain. Instead, China seeks partnerships for peace through prosperity will all nations and ironically Britain in particular will desperately need a more transparent trade deal with China if as is increasingly expected, the UK leaves the European Union without a proper trade deal in place with its soon to be former partners.
If as is expected, Canada’s economy in 2050 falls by eleven places on the international table, it will mean that Canada would stand to gain by behaving in a manner that is less hostile to China. The example of China’s post-Opium Wars relations with Britain and other former European antagonists demonstrates that China does not have a tendency to operate in intentional affairs on a model of vengeance. Instead, China has shown a supreme capacity for forgiveness, but China like any other country does not forget the past either.
Therefore, rather than western countries using their final decades as leading economies to provoke China, it would be better if such countries could adopt a win-win mentality that asks what for example China and Canada could gain from each other by intensifying cooperation and friendship. History has likewise shown that the sooner one develops a partnership with a rising economic power, the more such fraternal relations will translate into material benefits for all parties.
Canada is embarking on a road of hostility that cannot conceivably benefit its people. Canada’s leaders therefore are either fearful that if they do not take such a road, their more powerful US partners will exact their own vengeance, or otherwise, if Canada is acting autonomously, it is behaving like a weak bully that believes it will forever be protected by a stronger neighbour.
As the 21st century progresses, China will be more powerful than the US in every respect while it is already far more powerful than Canada. And yet, China does not seek to project power at Canada in an arrogant manner. It is therefore shockingly disappointed that Canada has decided to puff out its proverbial chest and treat China as though it is a nation of less worth. If Canada does not learn lessons in humility, it could lose out on a valuable partnership.
China is ultimately too busy solidifying new productive partnerships around the world to bother with answering Canada’s hostility with counter-hostility. But if one day Canada seeks a trade deal and Beijing is slow to answer the phone – the reasons why will be obvious enough for anyone with a rational view of the world.