Former prime minister Stephen Harper says the world order has returned to a kind of Cold War between two superpowers, this time between the United States and China. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Former prime minister Stephen Harper says the world order has returned to a kind of Cold War between two superpowers, this time between the United States and China. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Stephen Harper predicting a new Cold War – between the U.S. and China

Harper thinks Canada lacks the economic, security clout to do much to shape the outcome

Former prime minister Stephen Harper says the world order has returned to a kind of Cold War between two superpowers, this time between the United States and China.

And while middle-power countries like Canada are part of the rivalry, Harper told a defence conference Thursday they lack the economic and security clout to do much on their own to shape the outcome.

“Yes, middle powers like Canada can play a role and should play a role,” he said. “But I don’t think we should think that, especially for a country like ours, we could set courses completely independent of the Big Two.”

The former Conservative prime minister gave his view of the new world order during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session at a virtual gathering hosted by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.

Following the Second World War, the U.S. and its allies engaged in a prolonged Cold War with the Soviet Union and its communist allies and satellite states.

While Russia remains “strategically important,” Harper said its comparatively small economy today puts it out of the same league as China and the U.S. Russia has devolved instead, he said, into being “the world’s biggest disrupter,” along with rogue states like Iran and North Korea.

“It’s a hacker, it’s a disrupter, it’s a mercenary,” he said.

While the U.S. remains the world’s “pre-eminent power,” Harper said: “I think we’re past the day where it is the dominant or overwhelming power.”

“China is now a competitive rival of the United States across a range of spheres: economic, security, frankly competition of (government) systems as well.”

Harper said the blocs around each superpower are not as well defined as they were when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were the globe’s major rivals.

And he said there’s another twist: “The rivalry, while intense and growing, also involves a degree of mutual dependency that you didn’t have between the Soviet Union and the United States.”

A “huge change” since he left office in 2015 is the degree to which the U.S. has pulled back from its traditional leadership role — some of which Harper attributed to former U.S. president Donald Trump’s isolationist policies but which he thinks is generally “a trend in American politics.”

Europe, meanwhile, is “just not a player on international peace and security issues,” he said.

At the same time, Harper said China has become more blatantly aggressive and “hegemonic” — and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future, no matter who is its leader.

That could become an even bigger challenge if the standard of living in China were to reach the equivalent of that in advanced western nations, Harper said.

“This would mean that China, in sheer size, would be three times the (economic) power that the United States was at its height, with a system of not just authoritarianism, but a desire to spread that kind of a system around the world.

“This is just not something to be taken lightly.”

Harper said other countries in the region, like India, are trying to straddle the fence in the midst of the superpower rivalry, strengthening economic relations with China while protecting themselves from its hegemonic ambitions by simultaneously trying to strengthen their security relationships with the United States.

For Canada, Harper said one challenge is to prevent state-owned Chinese companies from controlling our resources sector, as his government took steps to prevent.

And he said there is no way Canada should allow Chinese technology giants like Huawei or ZTE to be involved in core data and tech services, including the development of 5G wireless networks.

The current Liberal government has delayed a decision on Huawei’s involvement in 5G here, although Canada’s allies in the so-called Five-Eyes intelligence alliance have banned the company from participating.

Harper said he believes “technological bifurcation” between China and the West is inevitable because the two societies have starkly different approaches to technology.

In western countries, people are concerned about “privacy, surveillance, the use of personal data” by big tech companies, he said. Meanwhile, “the entire Chinese technology system is designed for that purpose.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

ChinaU.S. China Trade DealUnited States

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford’s Ying Chun Chen recently won a $1-million prize with Lotto 6/49. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Ying Chun Chen recently won the $1-million prize in a Lotto 6/49 draw. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Ying Chun Chen wins Lotto 6/49 $1-million prize

Ticket was purchased at Abbotsford’s FreshCo for the March 6, 2021 draw

Kao Macaulay has been charged in relation to a home break-in on March 30 in Abbotsford in which five kittens were stolen. (Facebook photo)
Former Chilliwack man charged with theft of 5 newborn kittens in Abbotsford

Prolific offender Kao Macaulay, 23, accused of breaking into home on March 30

The City of Chilliwack website now has a panel full of customization options for people with disabilities, including an ADHD Friendly Profile. (chilliwack.com)
VIDEO: City of Chilliwack website offers new options for people with disabilities

The website now has a panel allowing users to adjust just about everything to suit individual needs

Williams Lake RCMP arrested a man Saturday, March 13 near Wildwood in vehicle stolen in Quesnel. (RCMP logo)
UPDATE: Chilliwack woman missing since March 17 found safe and sound

RCMP thanks the media and public for assistance

Workers were on scene to clean up the oil spill in Abbotsford at Trans Mountain Pipeline’s Sumas pump station in June 2020. (File photo by Shane MacKichan)
TSB releases final report on June 2020 oil spill in Abbotsford

Transportation Safety Board says pipeline fitting to blame for spill of up to 190K litres

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

In a 2019 photograph, Yin Yin Din held a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, during a trip to Victoria. (The News files)
Family of B.C. man killed by cop appeals to Attorney General for help

The Din family want B.C. Attorney General David Eby to forward their case to Crown

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Maple Ridge's Doug Ubell caught some photographs recently that he was anxious to share, one taken while on the Trans-Canada Trail looking southwest towards the Pitt River Bridge, and another from on Golden Ears Bridge. (Special to The News)
Traffic on Golden Ears Bridge returning to pre-pandemic levels

Commuters from Greater Vancouver still driving more, taking transit less

Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions (Screen shot)
Minister of mental health tells Surrey audience COVID-19 ‘has made everything worse’

More than 23,000 people in B.C. are receiving medication to treat opioid addiction

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Most Read