China's Ambassador to Canada Departs Amid Strained Relations

China's ambassador to Canada departs amid tensions over election interference allegations and detentions of citizens, underscoring strained Canada-China relations with implications for trade and diplomacy.

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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China's Ambassador to Canada Departs Amid Strained Relations

China's Ambassador to Canada Departs Amid Strained Relations

China's ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, has left his post after nearly five years, amid heightened tensions between the two countries. Cong's departure comes as Canada conducts a public inquiry into alleged foreign election interference, primarily by China.

During Cong's tenure, the relationship between Canada and China became strained due to several developments, including the detention of Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. Their arrest was widely seen as retaliation for Canada's arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on a U.S. extradition request in December 2018.

Spavor and Kovrig were released in September 2021, shortly after Meng struck a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. authorities, allowing her to return to China. The nearly three-year detention of the two Canadians, known as the "Two Michaels," significantly damaged Canada-China relations.

Why this matters: The departure of China's ambassador to Canada underscores the ongoing tensions between the two countries, which have been strained by issues such as the detention of Canadian citizens and allegations of Chinese interference in Canadian elections. The state of Canada-China relations has broader implications for trade, diplomacy, and geopolitical dynamics in the region.

Canada's spy agency believes the Chinese government interfered in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has testified that he does not believe China was successful in swaying the outcome of those elections, though they occurred during a time of significant strife between the countries.

Cong's exit also comes as one of Canada's most senior diplomats, Deputy Foreign Minister David Morrison, is visiting China. Foreign Minister Melanie Joly has signaled a pursuit of "pragmatic diplomacy" with non-like-minded countries. Despite the tense relationship, both countries have made recent statements pledging to communicate and collaborate with each other.

Last year, Canada expelled a Chinese diplomat accused of targeting a Canadian Conservative lawmaker and his family in Hong Kong, prompting China to expel a Canadian envoy in response. Canada's lack of dialogue with China has made it an outlier compared to its Western allies and other G7 countries.

The departure of Ambassador Cong Peiwu after nearly five years marks a significant moment in the strained Canada-China relationship. As Canada continues its public inquiry into alleged Chinese election interference and senior diplomats engage in talks, the future of Canada-China relations remains uncertain. Both countries have expressed a willingness to communicate and collaborate, but the path forward will require addressing complex issues and rebuilding trust damaged by recent events, including the high-profile detentions of citizens on both sides.

Key Takeaways

  • China's ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, has left his post amid tensions.
  • Canada is conducting a public inquiry into alleged Chinese election interference.
  • The detention of Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig strained Canada-China ties.
  • Canada's spy agency believes China interfered in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
  • Canada's lack of dialogue with China has made it an outlier compared to its allies.