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On trust, intimidation tactics, and diplomatic tact
It's often a mistake to play hardball for its own sake, but Canada's government appears to face a significant test of its mettle. A Chinese consular employee in Toronto is thought to have been targeting a member of the Canadian parliament for harassment and possibly worse. Nobody wants to see a diplomatic row over nothing, but the gravity of the situation shouldn't be understated.
■ One of the challenges for countries with free and open societies is that their very openness can be a tactical liability when faced with an adversary accustomed to the protections of darkness. It ordinarily takes a while to detect bad behavior in a free country, while unfree places can use tools like mass surveillance and snitching to keep an eye on others.
■ China's government appears to be engaged in a lot of boundary-testing right now. It's not just in the use of intimidation tactics to try to influence elected officials in Canada, it's in behavior like opening secret police stations in New York.
■ Canada might need a little bit of time to figure out the right response, but if the facts of the MP-target have been represented fairly, it shouldn't be a gentle one. Diplomacy is an exercise that depends on trust (even if incomplete) and fair dealing. Attempting to intimidate a foreign country's legislators into breaking to your will is pretty plainly a matter of cheating discussion. If rules aren't made to matter with consequences, then the entire enterprise breaks down.