Canada will seek a free trade agreement with China – only the timing is uncertain. Integrating with the world’s largest economy (in purchasing power parity terms) offers too much to ignore. In so doing, however, we should not ignore the attendant (and significant) security dimension.

This does not arise from concerns over Canadian security, or even over China’s. Rather, it arises from the insecurities of the Chinese Communist Party. The principal way the Party addresses these insecurities internationally is through carefully focused economic statecraft – and it is into this that Canada’s future free trade agreement fits. After initially discussing the Party’s insecurities, some implications for Canada will be drawn out, mainly using Australian examples from its current bout of rampant China fretting – much of it well founded.

The Party runs China but is much more than a simple political party, being deeply embedded across Chinese society. It has been astonishingly successful in modernizing China in a remarkably short space of time, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and dramatically improving people’s standard of living. Amongst many Chinese, these achievements have earned the party respect and at times admiration. Even so, as is normal for authoritarian regimes, the Party continuously fears for its own survival from internal forces. The 2015 China’s Military Strategy is an interesting illustration of this paranoia.

In the document, the Party sees domestic perils aplenty given the Taiwan, Tibet and “East Turkistan independence” separatist forces; the last two having recently inflicted “serious damage” on China. Moreover, “anti-China forces have never given up their attempt to instigate a ‘color revolution’ in this country. Consequently, China faces more challenges [today then previously] in terms of national security and social stability.” To some this may seem like an alternative universe – but not to the Party.

Please click here to read the full “Free trade with Chinese characteristics: Let the buyer beware” article published for Inside Policy’s “Dragon at the door” series, written by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow, Dr Peter Layton.