China humiliates those it can, because it can


National Post, 5 July 2019

Increasingly under Xi, the humiliation of rivals, to say nothing of enemies, is not to achieve some strategic objective, but is an end in itself

Osaka was a humiliation for our prime minister. Forced by the unhappiness of China following Canada in the G20 alphabetical ordering, Justin Trudeau was forced to sit beside Xi Jinping. A picture of fashionable impotence, Trudeau merited not a sideways glance from Xi, whose regime has refused all contact with senior Canadian officials in retaliatory punishment for Canada having an independent judiciary in the matter Meng Wanzhou.

Trudeau’s team was forced to play-up a brief handshake and night-vision video of the two talking, and Canada insisted that Trudeau used his 90 seconds to raise the matters of the Canadians held in unlawful detention. Like an excruciating blow upon an embarrassing bruise, Trudeau was forced to rely upon Donald Trump to carry water for him. Trump had promised to raise the issue of the detained Canadians during the bilateral meeting. Whether he did or not is unknown but seems unlikely.

The prime minister ought not to take it personally. True enough, he has been grovelling before Beijing for years, even before his premiership began in 2015, and perhaps he thought that an exemplary record of abasement would be rewarded. That is to get the Chinese regime wrong. Increasingly under President Xi, the humiliation of rivals, to say nothing of enemies, is not to achieve some strategic objective, but is an end in itself. China humiliates those it can because it can, a demonstration both of power and a willingness to use it.

The recent death of a Catholic bishop makes the point.

In 1957, the Chinese communist regime set up a “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association,” a government-run parallel “Catholic Church” that did not recognize the authority of Rome. The Patriotic Association (PA) would appoint its own bishops, without papal approval, which is a most serious canonical crime, resulting in excommunication. The upshot was the division of Catholics in China, with those compliant with the regime joining the official PA, and others refusing to break with Rome, remaining an “underground” Church.

Last September, the Holy See and China concluded an agreement with Rome reportedly granting Beijing a role in the selection of bishops; “reportedly” because the text of the agreement is secret, which is always a bad sign. In exchange, Pope Francis recognized all those PA bishops who did not have papal approval. In return, one would have expected that the Chinese would have given their state recognition to those underground bishops who refused to join the PA. But China did not, has not and will not.

The Holy See’s diplomats were badly outmanoeuvred. China pocketed Rome’s concessions and then turned up the religious persecution of Catholics and others. The regime could have ramped up the persecution as part of Xi’s increasingly totalitarian turn. But to do so immediately after concluding what the Holy See trumpeted as a diplomatic triumph was to maximize humiliation for the Catholic Church. Pope Francis extended a hand of reconciliation and got slapped around instead.

Continue reading at the National Post: