Canadians say China is the biggest threat to national security

A paramilitary police officer collects the Chinese national flag in Beijing. REUTERS/Jason LeeA disturbing anti-China sentiment is growing in Canada.

Over the past couple of months, we've been inundated with stories about the proposed CNOOC takeover of Nexen, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and about Chinese citizens coming to British Columbia to work in a mine.

[ Related: Chinese coal miners have B.C. labour unions up in arms ]

The polls tell us that Canadians are saying no, no and no.

Nanos Research released the results of another survey on Wednesday, claiming that Canadians believe China is the biggest threat to our national security — even more so than Iran.

The Nanos NumberNanos Research asked Canadians what country they think poses the greatest threat to national security. The Prime Minister says it's Iran. Do Canadians agree?

The anti-Chinese rhetoric is also evident in the media.

Well-respected B.C. political analyst Bill Tielman wrote a column earlier this week, opining about how Canada will deal with the "China challenge to our national sovereignty."

"It may be the most important question facing the country, with far more dire consequences than the election of a separatist provincial government in Quebec," he wrote for The Tyee.

"Is Canada sleepwalking towards a future day when a communist-ruled undemocratic China has significant control of key parts of our economy? The evidence is mounting."

Where are these bogey-man scenarios coming from?

We have had foreign entities take over Canadian natural resource companies before; we have trade investment and trade agreements in the works with over 100 countries; and we have hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign temporary workers from all around the world already working in Canada.

[ Related: Immigration minister in Ireland to sell Canada to young workers ]

What's the problem with China?

Jeremy Paltiel, a professor of political ­science at Carleton University, says the Sino-phobia is misguided.

"My concern is with the ignorant projections that associate "China," "state-owned," "Communist party" and "takeover" with nightmarish fantasies of the People's Liberation Army marching down Jasper Avenue in Edmonton," he wrote for the Financial Post.

Former finance minister and foreign affairs minister John Manley admits that there are significant 'threats' but says that shouldn't stop us from doing business with the Asian superpower.

"It's a popular belief now that China's a big threat rather than a big opportunity," he said at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon on Wednesday.

"I don't quite see it that way.  I don't dismiss the fact that there's a threat — there are issues around international property protection, there are issues around whether or not China be recognized as a market economy," he noted.

[ Related: Chinese telecom giants may be a security threat for Canada ]

"But we're going to have to do business in China...It's fundamentally the re-balancing of the global economy that we have to deal with."

Manley, who is now the president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, says the anti-China sentiment is also prevalent in the United States.

"In last week's presidential debate... [Mitt] Romney said that on day one, he would declare that China is a currency manipulator and will use that to justify punitive tariffs on goods coming from China," Manley said.

"I'm going to blatantly steal from [the] New York Times' Tom Friedman on this: he says 'on day one, China is declared to be a currency manipulator. That will make day two really interesting. Particularly on day two, [if] China says 'we're not going to participate in the next treasury auction that the United States hold.' That will make day three really, really, really interesting.'"

Certainly, the 'West' needs to safeguard itself against the potential threats from China.  But the reality is that Canada needs to do business with China, a country that within a few years will have the world's largest economy.

The sooner we accept that, the better off we'll all be.

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