Canada's policy towards Communist China, 1949-1971
SubjectCanada's relationship with Communist China
Canada's foregin policy
Recognition of Communist China
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The decision of the Canadian government in 1970 to recognize the People’s Republic of China, which controlled Mainland China, as the official government of China, as opposed to the Republic of China, which only controlled Taiwan, was the end result of a process lasting more than two decades. In that time frame, Canada’s China policy would undergo many different shifts. A close examination shows that these shifts were closely linked to the shifting attitudes of successive Canadian leaders. Four different prime ministers would serve in office during Canada’s recognition process, and the inauguration of each prime minister signaled a shift in Canada’s China policy. The issue of recognizing the People’s Republic of China was intertwined with several other issues that were important to Canada. Among these were the economic potential of China, Canada’s need for collective agreements to ensure its security, the desire of the United States to influence Canadian policy, and the desire of Canadian officials to demonstrate the independence of Canadian policy. Of the four prime ministers, three – Louis St. Laurent, Lester Pearson, and Pierre Trudeau – advocated for opening relations with the People’s Republic of China and one – John Diefenbaker – opposed it. Of the recognition advocates, St. Laurent and Pearson did little to advance Canada-China relations to any noticeable degree while Diefenbaker made some of the greatest advances in Canada- China relations prior to the recognition of Beijing by the Trudeau government. All of these leaders had publicly advocated specific policies towards Communist China, but their actions frequently contradicted their arguments. Ultimately, practical issues drove the decisions of these prime ministers, and shifts in policy were the result of the different priorities of these leaders regarding the issues they viewed as being most important.