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

Some bystanders with fire extinguishers helped keep the fire under control. Photo courtesy Suzie Thomas
Bystanders keep fire from spreading near McIvor Lake turnoff

‘Just be vigilant and careful,’ says Campbell River fire chief

The Pier Street Farmers Market will once again take up residence on Sundays from May to Septmber at the parking lot across from the Community Centre in downtown Campbell River for 2021. Mirror File Photo
Pier Street Farmers Market returns to Cedar Street parking lot for 2021

…and it’s hoped that the addition of artisans this year will make it even better

Some recommendations from the Downtown Safety Select Committee have been approved by Campbell River City Council, including removing the glass stage covering at Spirit Square. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Council going ahead with removing Spirit Square stage covering

But mayor acknowledges need for ‘welcoming, warm place with support services’

A small fire on North Rendezvous Island is the first wildfire of the season in the Campbell River area. Officials are asking people to take caution when burning during these dry conditions. BC Wildfire Dashboard
‘Conditions are tricky at the moment’ warns Coastal Fire Centre

Small fire on North Rendezvous Island first of the season for Campbell River area

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read