A Matter of Perception

“I can go back to my constituency and tell people, first of all, I’m white, I’m of Dutch descent…Obviously I am not working for China.” 

She doesn’t get it. Which is probably part of the problem.

Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld told a House of Commons committee that she is safe from people thinking she has been influenced by the government of China because she is white and she is Dutch. Which shows she doesn’t understand the situation.

It is alleged the Chinese government has been using its influence in the last two Canadian federal elections to elect candidates favorable to China. Apparently Ms Vandenbeld doesn’t understand that those candidates don’t need to be of Chinese background. In fact, Beijing would probably prefer that they weren’t. It would make their pro-China positions more credible.

I don’t want to suggest that Ms Vandenbeld is an agent of the Beijing government. In fact, I don’t think that any Canadian parliamentarians are. There is a strong possibility though that some have had their attitudes shaped by Chinese government propaganda – without even realizing it. And that is disturbing.

In attempting to influence Canada’s electoral outcome, the Chinese government would not have waited for the campaign to begin to start changing people’s attitudes towards one party or candidate. Their experts know that in order to be effective their propaganda needs to be developed over time.

Sixty years ago French sociologist Jacques Ellul referred to the Communist government of China as having one of “the most important propaganda systems in terms of scope, depth and coherence.” They know how to move people’s attitudes, how to subtly influence perceptions.

That may be why Justin Trudeau, years before becoming Prime Minister, expressed his admiration for China’s “basic dictatorship” becasue they could get things done quickly. The implication was that sometimes things take unreasonably long in a democratic system.

Which is true. That is the price of freedom not found in the dictatorships of the world.

Toi many Canadians Justin Trudeau is perceived as not taking allegations of Chinese government meddling in Canadian elections seriously. Maybe that is the effect of years of subtle propaganda efforts on Beijing’s part.

Anita Vandenbeld is sure she is not working for China. I wonder how much thought she actually put into that statement.


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