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

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

Dr. Katherine Oldfield is a naturopathic physician, mother, and active member of the Nelson-West Kootenay chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Photo: Submitted
COLUMN: Restore our Earth, restore our health

Katherine Oldfield writes about the priorities we need to have ahead of Earth Day

Air Canada will not be resuming flight to Castlegar anytime soon. Photo: Betsy Kline
Service to West Kootenay Regional Airport not included in Air Canada deal announcement

Air Canada will not be resuming flights to Castlegar at this time

While pharmacies across B.C. are using AstraZeneca for public immunizations for people 40 years of age and older, there is no availability currently in the Kootenays. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
No AstraZeneca vaccine availability in Kootenay pharmacies, says Interior Health

Vaccine has been opened up at pharmacies in other areas of the province to people 40 years of age and older

Idle Eyes, Tad Campbell (middle). Photo: Idle Eyes Facebook page
Idle Eyes frontman, Trail native, sentenced to house arrest

Campbell avoided jail time at the Feb. 5 sentencing in the Vancouver courthouse.

Four homes in Johnson Flats were at serious risk of falling into a neighbourhood section of the Kettle River, according to capital project manager Justin Dinsdale. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks shields riverside homes against erosion

Crews have built a modified dike along a section of the Kettle River in Johnson Flats

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Canadian driver Paul Tracy pulls out of the pits during the morning session at the Molson Indy in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, July 26, 2003 (CP/Richard Lam)
Vancouver is considering hosting a Formula E race using electric cars

The race would be part of a three-day event focused on climate and sustainability

Most Read