Canada-China relations have been stuck in their lowest point since diplomatic recognition in the early 1970s.

You’ve been asked to advise the Canadian prime minister on a recent international crisis. Choose ONE of the below topics and write a max 1,000-word policy brief for the prime minister and his team.

Note: These people are very busy with Covid-19 and other things, so write in a clear and straightforward way. This isn’t an academic essay and thus doesn’t require footnotes/endnotes and/or citations, but you must write in full sentences. Use the three-part structure below to guide your policy brief.

Remember: you are writing to the Canadian prime minister, so keep Canada’s national interest and Canada’s capabilities in mind. No outside reading is needed aside from the short readings (in pdf) included below. You should definitely use the lecture slides and/or readings from the syllabus (especially for theoretical framing and IR concepts).

By ‘policy’ recommendations, we mean actions; in other words, what specifically do you think Canada should do about the below problem that you’ve chosen. Be specific but also be humble about what Canada (as a ‘middle power’) can actually do (so sorry, Canada launching a military invasion—even if that was desirable—isn’t on-the-table).

Copy-and-paste your policy brief into Quercus (under ‘Policy brief’) or upload your paper in Word or pdf format.

Deadline: October 9th before midnight (Toronto time). 5% per day late penalty.

Choose ONE of these topics for your policy brief:

Topic 1:

Canada-China relations have been stuck in their lowest point since diplomatic recognition in the early 1970s. It all started when Canada, on a request from the US Department of Justice and the Trump administration), detained Meng Wanzhou, a high-level executive of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. She has been accused of various charges, including wire fraud and violating US-imposed sanctions on Iran. She has been held under house arrest in Vancouver since early December 2018, awaiting her extradition hearing (note: she will not be tried in Canada, but a Canadian judge will determine if the US extradition order is lawful). In response, China has detained two Canadians, altered the prison sentences (to death) for four other Canadians, and stopped importing various Canadian products like soy and pork, among other measures. Chinese officials have openly said that relations will go back to normal if Mrs Meng is released. Furthermore, China is also insisting that the Canadian government allow Huawei to participate in building Canada’s 5G infrastructure. This has provoked fears within parts of Canada’s security establishment and from several key allies of Canada that Huawei could use this position for espionage and other nefarious purposes. The Prime Minister wants to make a move. What policies do you recommend?—to maintain that the legal system will determine Mrs Meng’s fate and to push for the release of the two Canadians? To release Mrs Meng in exchange for the two Canadians (and the return of ‘normal’ bilateral relations)? To rally Western allies (and especially the United States) to put pressure on China (if you choose this option, be specific about what should be done: e.g. sanctions, recognize Taiwan’s independence, restricted travel and/or student visas to Canada, investigate money-laundering claims of Chinese officials in Canada, etc)? Turn to international institutions like the UN to resolve the issue?—and/or something else. Also, your answer must include what to do about Huawei and Canada’s plan to build a 5G network.


Canada is now only Five Eyes member – Globe and Mail – July 2020.pdf

(link with audio if you prefer): (Links to an external site.)

600 days of detention in China – Globe and Mail – Aug 2020.pdf

(link with audio if you prefer): (Links to an external site.)

Topic 2:

In August 2019, the Modi government of India changed the special status of Kashmir, a status that the disputed territory had held for some 70 years. The move decisively binds Kashmir to India and effectively ends any hope of Kashmiri self-determination. Anticipating backlash from locals, the Modi government ordered troops into Kashmir, put the Kashmiri population under lockdown, arrested some locals and cut off communications with the outside world. The Pakistani government is furious, and tensions between India and Pakistan have again increased. The Canadian Prime Minister is concerned for the people of Kashmir and worried that this unilateral move strains not only India-Canada relations, but may also lead to another war between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed countries. Should Canada get involved and in which way(s)? Should Canada actively side with one of the countries over the other? Should Canada stay out of this entirely? Be specific in what you want to do: e.g. recognize Kashimiri independence, recognize Indian sovereignty over Kashmir, apply sanctions (against whom?), restrict trade and/or visas, broker discussions between the two country’s leaders/representatives, turn to the UN (but be specific what you want done), among many possible options.

ReadingWinning Kashmir and losing India – Bhanu Mehta – Sept 2019.pdf

Topic 3:

The Chinese government has adopted various measures in the far west region of Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority area of China where the central government has struggled to exert control (and indeed, has faced independence or ‘secessionist’ movements and acts of terror). Over the past several years, this has amounted to a mass surveillance program which includes, among many harsh measures, interning over a million Muslim men in various detention camps across Xinjiang as well as what is likely a mass sterilization program of Muslim women. This topic is now gaining international media attention and the Canadian Prime Minister is worried this may impact his international reputation and re-election possibilities. But he is also very aware that the Chinese Communist Party is very sensitive to threats—real and perceived—of its sovereignty. What should Canada’s response be? Adopt sanctions (if so, which type?), restrict travel and/or student visas, insist on a human rights inspection team (either exclusively of Canadians and/or with the UN), restrict trade with China, make a speech about human rights in Xinjiang, do nothing – and/or something else.

ReadingThe long shadow of Xinjiang – Coca – Sept 2020.pdf

Topic 4:

Popular protests against the Lukashenko regime in Belarus has the Canadian government concerned about Russia’s next move, especially considering Russia’s recent history of intervening in the domestic affairs of nearby states when Putin’s Russia has felt its own interests threatened.  Should Canada actively support the anti-Lukashenko protests (and if so, in which ways – such as actual aid, sanctions against the Lukashenko regime and/or recognizing the opposition government)? Should Canada turn to the UN to push for a negotiated and peaceful agreement between Lukashenko regime and opposition forces? Should Canada address Russia directly, either publicly (e.g. shaming or warning) or secretly (through back channels)? Should Canada apply sanctions (if so, against whom?), restrict trade and/or visas?—among other possible options.

ReadingWhat Russia has in mind for Belarus – Carpenter and Kobets – Sept 2020.pdf

Structure of your policy brief:

Hint: follow the word count to get an understanding of where our grading focus will be

 What is the policy problem? (less than 100 words)

What is the best theoretical lens (e.g. realist, liberal or constructivist) framework to be understand the issue? (about 500 words)

Be sure to make some IR-related concepts covered in classes 1-5 (e.g. sovereignty, anarchy, trade, democracy, human rights, etc)

What is your policy recommendation? (also incorporate at least one of these three IR theories) (about 500 words)

Grade breakdown (out of 25):

  • Identifies the core policy problem(s) within 100 words: /5
  • Connects IR theor(ies) and related concepts to understand the topic: /10
    • Focus can be on just one IR theory (realism, liberalism or constructivism) but should be able to incorporate the most relevant concepts and logic tying the problem to the theor(ies)
  • Policy recommendation is practical, aimed to further Canada’s national interest, and takes into consideration Canada’s capabilities, domestic politics and major relationships, e.g. with the US and/or UN: /5
    • The policy recommendation can be ‘outside-the-box’, but should be broadly considered within the realm of possibility (e.g. ‘practical’)
  • Language and structure: clear, edited and follows 3-part structure: /5
  • TOTAL: /25

Note: No citations or bibliography are required for this

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