Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Democracy requires citizen power....missing in both Canada and China

Don Pittis: Canada's best future export to China could be our democratic example

By Don Pittis, CBC Business Unit, CBCwebsite, November 13, 2012
And while during the last 20 years, China's transformation has been economic, I am convinced during the next 20, China's transformation will be political. That is China's fiscal cliff. In 20 years, the Harper government will be gone. In 20 years, solar power or some undiscovered technology may well have crowded out our oilsands resource. But our agreement with China will still bind our two countries together.

During that time, the most precious export Canada can offer to China is our technology and example of democracy and its most important component, pluralism -- the distribution of power to many parts of society. It is pluralism that prevents voting from becoming a sham.
Currently, a small group of men hold the reins in China. The oldest witnessed the power of the 1949 revolution. Even more of them witnessed the chaos and terror of the Cultural Revolution. They fear sudden change.
For now we can profit by selling our natural resources. But we must also offer the precious gift of the slow revolution – democracy -- even though we really don't know how it works.
We cannot know what kind of China our Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement is binding us to.
But a week after a small group of billionaires with a shape-shifting front man nearly took power in the United States, we in Canada must help China grow a new, healthy, way of sharing and distributing power.
While I do not disagree with the optimistic perspective of Canada's potential gift of democracy to China, over the next two or three decades, I do have trouble with the current example of democracy operating in Ottawa being considered an adequate representation of "pluralism" at least when compared with the potential.
Of course, Canadian democracy is a polar opposite to the closed "cabal" running China and because of that comparison, Pittis' case merits full consideration.
However, just take the current example of the thirty-odd-year agreement between China and Canada, negotiated by the Harper government, never debated in the House of Commons, never shown to the public through extensive public hearings or even public reportings, whose fine print is or could be very damaging to Canadian interests, should the Chinese take exception to the manner in which Canadian corporations operate within the terms of the agreement.
Some sources indicate that the trade agreement provides the freedom for the Chinese government to take offending Canadian corporations to court, an "in camera" court where the dispute will be resolved, without the accountability or the transparency Canadians expect, deserve and demand.
Perhaps, in Canada today, we have only a "shell" of the kind of democracy that made this country mature, and if Pittis is advocating that kind of export to China, I'm confident the Chinese will be able to see through that sham.
The real question is when will Canadians wake up to the reality of secret negotiations, secret terms of a long-term trade agreement that will bind the country for three-plus decades, and demand, even through the courts if need be, that this agreement be fully disclosed, debated and renegotiated, if that is what needs to be done. And that also is an integral part of democracy, public investigation, public debate and public protest of the decisions taken by the government....all initiatives that the Chinese government will not even contemplate, let alone permit to flex its muscle in the current China.


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