China tried to sway election, CSIS reports

You can now add electoral influence to your list of “things the West and China are fighting about” in addition to spy balloonsresearch funding, and real estate investing

What happened: It’s no secret that China’s influence around the world has been rising, but after a recent review of CSIS documents, The Globe and Mail reports the country went so far as to attempt to influence Canada’s 2021 election. 

  • Chinese officials were, reportedly, not pleased by the Liberals’ growing criticism of China, but viewed a Liberal minority government as the preferred election outcome.

  • China’s tactics allegedly included cash donations to campaigns or having business owners hire international Chinese students to volunteer in electoral campaigns.

A security task force set up by the Liberals did not publicly raise foreign interference alarm bells back in 2021, but there are some indications China’s efforts may have affected the campaign.

  • The Conservative Party lost ground in some ridings with high Chinese-Canadian populations (despite increasing their overall share of the popular vote), and former party leader Erin O’Toole alleged foreign interference cost the party up to 9 seats.

Why it matters: Canadian relations with the world’s second-largest economy reached a low point after the arrest of a Huawei executive in 2018 and have continued to sour. Just this week, the government moved to block some Chinese-Canadian research partnerships. 

Zoom out: On the topic of the Chinese spy balloon that floated into US airspace and was subsequently shot down, The Lancet’s Richard Horton wrote: “Whether provocation or mistake, the long-term result will be a further erosion of trust between the West and China.”