Indo-Pacific strategy aims to counter ‘disruptive’ China with boosts to investment, security

Canada will attempt to balance its approach to an “increasingly disruptive” China by investing billions of dollars toward economic opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region while strengthening its security and intelligence networks, a long-awaited strategy released Sunday says.

The federal Indo-Pacific Strategy seeks to take advantage of the economic growth in the region — estimated to be home to over half the global economy by 2040 — while also pursuing Canadian priorities in climate change prevention, rights for women and girls and Indigenous reconciliation.

Yet the threat posed by China looms large over the plan, which aims to maintain diplomatic ties and find common ground where possible while also defending Canada’s interests and security.

Read more: Canadian military to play stronger role in Indo-Pacific region: Trudeau

“We will compete with China when we ought to and we will cooperate with China when we must,” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly told Mercedes Stephenson on The West Block shortly before the strategy was publicly released.

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Pointing to China’s gradual bending of international norms for its own purposes and its buildup of military forces, Joly said the superpower’s aggressive moves underline “why we need to step up our game.”

“We need to invest more in this part of the world because it is extremely important for our own sovereignty and also our own peace and stability,” she said.

Indo-Pacific strategy includes $2.2B investment over five years

The strategy includes the deployment of additional military assets to the region, including frigates tasked with not only ensuring security in Chinese airspace and waters but also the continued implementation of sanctions on North Korea.

There will also be further investment in domestic and regional cybersecurity infrastructure — as well as in the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and other security and border agencies — to protect Canada from cyberattacks and foreign interference.

The latter issue has received fresh scrutiny in recent weeks. Canadian intelligence officials have warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that China has allegedly been targeting Canada with a vast campaign of foreign interference, which includes funding a clandestine network of at least 11 federal candidates running in the 2019 election, according to Global News sources.

Canadian military to play stronger role in Indo-Pacific region: Trudeau

The RCMP is also investigating so-called “police stations” allegedly set up by Beijing in Toronto and Vancouver to crack down on the activities of Chinese-Canadians.

“When it comes to foreign interference in general, I think we have to do more to counter it,” Joly said. “And that’s why we’re putting $150 million on the table to deal with this, because we need to step up our game.

“We need to invest in intelligence agencies and also in the RCMP.”

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