At least part of the message is beyond dispute: the cash flowing out of China into assets around the world has hit tsunami proportions, driven by fears of a slowing economy and a declining currency. Estimates peg the amount Chinese investors and companies moved out of the country last year at nearly $1 trillion, up more than sevenfold from 2014. Much of that money is being spent by Chinese companies looking to snap up Western assets, such as ChemChina’s US$43-billion bid to take over Swiss seed company Syngenta, or to pay down U.S. dollar-denominated debts. But a sizable portion was directed into overseas real estate.
The frenzy has taken a visible toll on one of the world’s “most livable cities,” resulting in hollowed-out neighborhoods, absentee investors, and vacant, decrepit homes as huge numbers of investment properties simply sit unoccupied. What statisticians have been slow to chart has been ruefully documented in popular blogs like Vancouver Vanishes and Beautiful Empty Homes of Vancouver, which tracks empty, multi-million-dollar character and heritage houses.
– From May’s post: “China is Buying Canada” – Notes From a Gigantic Real Estate Bubble
If I were a Canadian citizen, I’d be up in arms about the following story. Ironically, it’s Chinese-Canadians who are bearing the brunt of the intimidation and censorship (for now).
Excerpts from the New York Times:
ORONTO — Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is due in China on Tuesday for a much anticipated visit, hoping to reset what had been an up-and-down relationship under the previous government. Closer ties, Mr. Trudeau says, would release untapped prosperity at home and promote Canadian values like good governance and the rule of law in China.
But many Chinese-Canadians say the opposite is happening. They say the growing economic clout wielded in Canada by China, Canada’s largest trading partner after the United States, is leading to an erosion of their own freedom — specifically their freedom to speak openly about China’s authoritarian state. Journalists who write for the many Chinese-language publications in Canada, along with activists and others, say they are under increasing pressure to promote the interests of the Chinese government.
“It’s gotten worse and worse,” said Jonathan Fon, 67, a Toronto paralegal, freelance writer and critic of China’s Communist rulers. Mr. Fon, who emigrated from China in 1992, said publications that had once printed his opinion articles now routinely rejected them because of worries about political and financial fallout. “They will not take my contributions, even though we’re friends,” he said.
In the past decade, China has embarked on an ambitious effort to promote its image abroad, including a multibillion-dollar overseas expansion by Chinese state media and a network of Confucius Institutes, which teach Chinese language and culture while disseminating the Communist Party’s viewpoints. In Western countries, analysts say, the party exerts influence over Chinese immigrants and students through embassies, consulates and community organizations, as well as business interests with the financial leverage to shape local Chinese-language media coverage.
“China is not shy about using overseas Chinese communities to advance its interests abroad,” said Minxin Pei, an expert on Chinese politics at Claremont McKenna College in California. “What’s brilliant about the Chinese government’s interest strategy is that it exploits the freedoms of Western democracies against Western democracies.”
A Chinese writer said he had lost his column in the Global Chinese Press, based in British Columbia, after the newspaper was pressured over his criticism of Mr. Wang and Mr. Chan, according to a report in The Globe and Mail. A Chinese-Canadian freelancer in Toronto who uses the pen name Xin Feng received death threats online for chastising Mr. Wang in a column.
A year ago, the editor in chief of a Chinese-language newspaper in Ontario said she had been fired for publishing a commentary critical of Mr. Chan. She blamed that, in part, on complaints from the Chinese consulate in Toronto.
In Ontario, which includes Toronto and its suburbs, Chinese-language journalists and media executives say self-censorship has become widespread because of the economic pressures on their outlets. They fear boycotts by pro-Beijing advertisers and the loss of distribution deals with Chinese state media publications.
Ontario has more than 30 Chinese-language news outlets, mostly free newspapers, and the majority of them appear to avoid reporting that would anger China’s leaders.
Jack Jia, 54, the publisher of the Toronto-based Chinese News Group newspaper and website, said China’s influence had “grown stronger and stronger” in recent years. “They want to control everything,” Mr. Jia said.
Today, he said, as immigration from China has soared, Chinese officials have gained more leverage. “They can threaten, because most media employees have family back in China,” Mr. Jia said.
A Chinese-language reporter in Toronto, who asked not to be identified in order to protect her job and her relatives in China, said her editors now regularly deleted quotations that were critical of Beijing, and reviewed article ideas specifically to head off coverage that might reflect poorly on the Chinese government.
Activists in Canada critical of Beijing have found themselves targets for intimidation. Not long after Zang Xihong, 54, a prominent Chinese human-rights activist, emigrated to Canada 27 years ago, she said, she began receiving menacing phone calls from Chinese state security agents at her home in the Toronto suburbs.
Ms. Zang said the Canadian authorities had told her that they could take no action because most of those activities were protected free speech, leaving her powerless, she said, to escape the long arm of the Chinese government or its supporters.
“When I fled from China, I suddenly realized they are here already,” she said. “Where else can I go?”