Nexen platforms in the North Sea.
I know in online debates whoever mentions Hitler first loses. But when a massive Chinese government monopoly called CNOOC offers $15.1 billion for Nexen, a Canadian energy firm operating in the oil sands, the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and off Colombia and West Africa, we need to be clear that the regime in question is thoroughly nasty.
Realizing what you're dealing with doesn't guarantee dealing with it effectively. We might let CNOOC buy Canadian assets anyway, then try to enforce our laws on everything from the environment to workers' rights. We probably can't keep CNOOC from acquiring Nexen's offshore assets indirectly, through a non-Canadian private intermediary. And the People's Republic of China's long-term ambitions to rule the waves and cyberspace and destroy American "hegemonism" won't be frustrated at a stroke by keeping them out of the oil sands.
Still, not realizing what you're dealing with precludes any rational approach to the problem. Consider the telling piece in Thursday's Globe and Mail by Jim Prentice, senior Canadian banker and former federal Alberta Tory Industry Minister, supporting the Nexen takeover because China is a "strategic partner" of Canada, something he repeated four times while only saying it of the U.S. once.
Apparently "taking our strategic partnership with China to a new and more important level ... is essential to our future economic well-being." And "the Prime Minister's hands are somewhat tied by the need to move forward in the definition of our ‘strategic partnership' with China."
OK, I'll bite. How would you move forward in the definition of our "strategic partnership" with a regime that backed the Darfur genocide, protects Iran's nuclear program from UN inspection, shelters murderous lunatics from North Korean to Myanmar to Syria, sells weapons to Mad Bob Mugabe, increased defence spending at double-digit rates for two decades, openly vows to nuke the United States if necessary to conquer democratic Taiwan, crushed Tibet, forces women to have abortions, murders dissidents in jail, spies aggressively on Canada, has citizens sing about "Striking Down the Western Powers" on China's national day, never repented of Mao's genocidal crimes, ruined its own environment, won't play fair in international trade and would chew off its own leg before it held a free election?
In which of these quaint little enterprises, pray, are we partners, in what capacity, and to what end? As opposed to the United States, devoted like Canada to liberty under law, a fair and open trading world and the defence of freedom against the sorts of maniacs backed and armed by ... oh dear ... our strategic partner in Beijing.
If Prentice were ranting on a street corner I'd leave him to it. But he's a senior establishment figure spouting what passes for prudent wisdom in much of Canada's elite. His trendy cliché from The Economist about how " the defining battle of the 21st century would not be between capitalism and socialism, but between different versions of capitalism - market capitalism on the one hand and state-owned enterprises (SOES) on the other" was just bizarrely echoed by Calgary real estate magnate Bob Dhillon calling CNOOC's bid "free market" on Sun News Network.
Are you nuts? State enterprises aren't capitalism, they're socialism. And Chinese state firms aren't free market entities, they're brutal geopolitical tools.
Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in his journal after witnessing Stalin's famine that killed millions in the Ukraine and elsewhere: "Whatever else I may do or think in the future, I must never pretend that I haven't seen this."
It's not obvious what we should do about the murderous, aggressive dictatorship in Beijing. But we must never pretend we have not seen it. Not even for $15.1 billion.