China is and will be for the decades to come Canada's and the world's primary geopolitical challenge.
Whether China goes down the path to the acceptance of the international rule of law or it takes another path remains in doubt.
With a population of 1.4 billion and a history of authoritarian rule that goes back millennia it cannot easily make a transition to international norms. The weight of history and the inertia of culture may be too great. It is a great civilization and a proud civilization
with much to offer the international community. Nevertheless its centrifugal tendencies, its sense of historical grievance, its cultural assuredness, the stresses of modernization and the vast shift of people from the land to cities may well give rise to a virulent and aggressive nationalism.
Recent developments do not encourage an optimistic outlook on which path it may take. It seems to be falling "off the way". The facet of China that surfaced in Tiananmen Square in 1989 still wars for China's soul.
China is Canada’s second largest trade partner after the U.S.. As noted, however, by David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to Beijing noted “They have a way of putting the golden handcuffs on you, so you have to resist that”
Canada's geopolitical strategy must therefore be to encourage China to take the course of complete modernization including liberal democracy and the adoption of global standards of behaviour while at the same time participating in global efforts
to deter China from aggressive actions against its neighbours as its power grows. There is the risk of the Thucydides' Trap “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.”
The People's Republic of China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) sets out its "public" plans.
The current Canadian government has now come out of the closet with respect to China relations - a trade pact may now be in the offing - Canada needs to buttress its economic growth and China needs allies in its transformation from a
capital investment lead growth to consumer based growth.
NeverthelessCanada's Geopolitical and Defence Strategy development needs leadership that may or may not be forthcoming in what is an increasingly risky global environment.