Like The Hub?
Join our community.
Join

‘A critical year for The Hub’: A letter from The Hub’s executive director

Commentary

Dear reader,

As The Hub enters its third year you are going to see some exciting changes on our platform. Thanks to the generosity of our foundation funders and the over one thousand individual Hub donors we are investing in new features and content that advance our mission to promote more and better analysis of public policy issues in Canada.

Yesterday we shared with you our new lineup of expert contributors covering the big public policy beats of law and governance, defence and security, culture and media, and economics and fiscal policy. Their regular insights will continue to be complemented by in-depth, original analysis of the public policy issues by Hub staff writers and regular, long-form interviews with some of the world’s sharpest minds and brightest thinkers in politics, economics, culture, and international affairs hosted by Hub editor-at-large Sean Speer. In short, our goal is to provide you with a compelling mix of insight, analysis, and debate that explains and entertains and hopefully leaves you with some genuinely new perspectives on the important issues facing the country.

The coming twelve months will also be a critical year for The Hub in terms of how we fund ourselves. Our foundation partners provided the seed funding to launch The Hub and invest in the digital tools and platforms that have allowed us to host millions of unique users on our websitesocial media feeds, and podcast. Like our foundation funders we believe that market forces should start to play a more prominent role in determining The Hub’s future. Specifically, while reader engagement and kudos are important and greatly appreciated, the single biggest sign that someone cares about The Hub is their willingness to send us a market signal by becoming a donor. That is why this year we will start the necessary transition to become a reader-funded organization. To state the obvious, this will only work if we can convince more of you to become donors.  

To this end, we have launched a new premium donor experience to mark our second anniversary. For the modest amount of twenty-five cents a day ($7.99 a month) Hub donors get access to complimentary events and lectures, a spiffy Hub baseball cap, our flagship daily email (optional), and an annual Canadian charitable tax receipt. In short, some great donor benefits that we think you will actually use and appreciate. We also made donating to The Hub as simple as possible. You don’t have to create a membership account and password, are billed monthly only, and can cancel anytime time hassle-free with a click of a button.  We also now accept small one-time donations (think of it as a tip jar for our writers) and have created a gift subscription where you can give all the benefits of our premium donor experience to friends and family. Every dollar raised from individual donors goes to funding public policy research and analysis by our expert contributors and on-the-ground staff writers in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa.

Another community-building feature we are looking forward to rolling out in the coming year is more live and in-person lectures, seminars, and talks. We have recently been experimenting with small events for Hub Fellows featuring interesting speakers and now want to extend this opportunity to meet up and learn from each other and renowned experts to the entire Hub community. If you have a suggestion for a live event or are interested in helping host a meetup of Hub readers in your city, please send us an email. Your input and involvement is greatly appreciated. Creating a fellowship of ideas offline was one of The Hub’s key goals when we launched Spring of 2021 (great timing we know!). With the pandemic finally waning and people returning to in-person events we look forward to making the Hub fellowship a reality for our supporters.  

You will also soon see in The Hub tasteful advertising by leading industry groups, associations, and Canadian companies. We have thought carefully about how to bring advertising into The Hub in ways that keep to our credo that public policy matters, and the country is better off when we analyze and debate policy ideas with rigor and honesty. This is why our new advertising platform will be exclusively for groups with public-spirited, fact-based policy messages which we broadly support. Our promise to our readers is to be selective and tasteful in how we feature advertising in The Hub. We ask for your understanding that ads are another necessary step in our transition from a foundation-based funding model to one that is reader supported.

If you are a leader of an industry group, association, or Canadian company that has a public policy idea you want to encourage thoughtful, expert-driven discussion about, please reach out to me. We would welcome having a conversation with you about your policy priorities and exploring whether The Hub can help.

Let me end this update on a personal note. Helping lead The Hub over the last two years has been an incredibly rich and rewarding experience. The impact and scale we have achieved in twenty-four short months is hugely motivating. All of this said, there are some worrying trends that we are seeing when it comes to news, information, and public debate. It seems that in the last few years the online business models most likely to be rewarded in our polarized society are ones that misinform, enrage, and divide. Some of the worst offenders are the so-called “news” websites in Canada that seem to spend most days actively reaffirming people’s biases, studiously avoiding facts, and ruthlessly bidding up one group’s supposed grievances versus another. The reality is that most of these organizations are wildly successful in terms of bringing tens of millions of outraged and amped-up readers onto their platforms to shamelessly monetize them through clickbait fundraising appeals and by selling them on to unscrupulous digital advertisers.

The Hub is the antithesis of these platforms. In what we do and how we do it The Hub tries its best to model civil and substantive dialogue and debate. We don’t think this is retrograde. We don’t think it is uncool. We don’t and won’t sell out our principles by becoming an online “anger factory.” What this means for the future of The Hub is the question that often keeps me up at night. Is the absence in Canada of anything like The Hub a sign of market opportunity or is it a market failure waiting to happen? Our transition, now underway, from an organization supported mostly by foundations to one powered by individual donors, will provide the answer to this important question. So, thank you for your time, your attention, and for coming along for the ride the last two years. We hope that we can continue to earn your support as a regular reader, a donor, and member of our growing fellowship of ideas.

Yours sincerely,
Rudyard Griffiths,
Executive Director,
The Hub.

Adam Zivo: Canada should retaliate against China by supporting Taiwan’s bid to join the CPTPP

Commentary

The Trudeau government spent years appeasing China, but, after having our citizens held hostage and our democracy undermined, we now know that Beijing wants Canada’s obedience, not mutual respect. It’s therefore imperative that the federal government take a more assertive stance that forces Beijing to treat Canadian interests seriously. A good way to begin would be to support Taiwan’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

As China benefits from its asymmetrical relationship with Canada and has shown little interest in changing the status quo, responsibility falls on Ottawa to push for a more equal arrangement. However, there are few avenues to penalize Beijing for bad behaviour.

Attempts at economic coercion would be futile and self-destructive. Alternatively, Canada could try to politically embarrass or undermine China (i.e. more forcefully calling out human rights abuses), but that runs the risk of inviting punishing retaliation from Beijing—especially if Ottawa acts unilaterally.

As in any David-vs-Goliath scenario, Ottawa needs to be cunning if it wants to stand up for itself. That means employing indirect and multilateral measures that strike at Beijing’s vulnerabilities. Supporting Taiwan’s admission into the CPTPP, a vital trading bloc designed to counter China’s influence, would be a perfect fit.

For Beijing, Taiwan is a uniquely sensitive issue. Though the island nation has functioned as a sovereign state for over 70 years, China, for complex historical reasons, considers it to be a rogue province. Annexing the island is seen as a matter of national reunification and, additionally, is believed to be essential to consolidating the Chinese Communist Party’s historical legitimacy. 

Beijing has spent decades politically isolating Taiwan by lashing out at countries that recognize it as a sovereign state. As a result, Taiwan has often been unfairly excluded from global institutions. Now that China is more confident and powerful, it’s widely believed that it will attempt to conquer Taiwan within the next 10 years, even at great cost to itself.

Supporting Taiwan would be the best way for Ottawa to create a headache for Beijing without directly attacking China. However, such a strategy would need to be handled carefully to avoid creating too much direct conflict, which is why supporting Taiwan’s CPTPP application, a relatively subtle tactic, would be ideal.

The CPTPP is the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a U.S.-led initiative that would’ve created a 12-member cross-Pacific trading bloc that, by excluding China, would’ve provided a formidable counterweight to Beijing’s influence.

After U.S. President Donald Trump axed the TPP in 2016, Japan salvaged the project and relaunched it in 2018 as the CPTPP, retaining most of the TPP’s original provisions and all of its original members except the U.S. Even without U.S. involvement, the bloc accounts for a significant portion of global GDP (13.5 percent) and has been integral to Japanese-led efforts to contain China.

Taiwan has been eager to join the CPTPP—and for good reason.

Owing to its highly educated population and scarce natural resources, Taiwan has fostered an export-oriented economy that excels in manufacturing higher-value industrial goods. This economic model has important implications for Taiwan’s self-defence.

Taipei hopes that it can deter Beijing’s aggression by building global trade links and enmeshing itself into essential global supply chains. The underlying assumption is that other countries would be incentivized to defend Taiwan (diplomatically or militarily) if the island’s destruction has significant spillover harms to allied economies.

The semiconductor market has been crucial for this strategy. Semiconductors are essential components for most electronic devices, and, as Taiwan enjoys a global near-monopoly on manufacturing them, any major attack on the island would wreak havoc on technology markets across the world.

This has been referred to as Taiwan’s “silicone shield,” but that shield is now weakening. The U.S. has begun investing in domestic semiconductor production with the eventual goal of self-sufficiency. If Taiwan loses its monopoly, then it loses its leverage, so broadly diversifying and expanding trade is now more important than ever.

The CPTPP would, by reducing trade barriers, give the Taiwanese increased access to foreign markets while lowering the cost of importing raw materials. This would strengthen Taiwan’s economy while tethering it more closely to other economies.

CPTPP membership would also grant Taiwan a new platform for diplomatic engagement and international cooperation, which the Taiwanese desperately need given their exclusion from other multilateral organizations. Increasing Taipei’s visibility and standing would show the world that, despite Beijing’s disapproval, the country cannot be shunned and ignored.

The Taiwanese submitted their CPTPP membership application in September 2021 and obviously see admission as vital to their self-preservation. Last September, I visited Taipei as part of Taiwan’s first press tour since the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour was clearly designed to build support for Taiwan’s CPTPP bid. Not only was the membership application widely discussed, but our group was also composed of one journalist from every CPTPP member state, plus an American journalist.

Though they didn’t say so directly, the manner in which our Taiwanese hosts discussed the CPTPP suggested that they considered membership as part of their existential struggle.

Western commentators seem to agree that Taiwan meets the CPTPP’s membership criteria, but compliance with legal and economic standards isn’t sufficient to greenlight a membership bid. New countries can only be admitted with the unanimous consent of existing members. Predictably, many CPTPP states, particularly smaller states in southeast Asia, have been reluctant to grant this consent out of fear of angering China.

Beijing submitted its own CPTPP membership bid one week after Taiwan submitted theirs. As China doesn’t remotely meet the bloc’s membership requirements (i.e. free markets, clear regulatory environments), the move has been seen as a stunt meant to derail Taiwan’s application. Approving Taiwan and rejecting Beijing would create dangerous optics for some CPTPP members.

Even so, Japan has been a stalwart supporter of Taiwan and has lobbied other CPTPP members to support the Taiwanese membership application. As Japan is the largest economy within the bloc, Tokyo enjoys a lot of clout, but, at the same time, it’s unlikely that smaller members can be persuaded to support Taipei unless other leading CPTPP economies apply pressure, too.

Australia has been giving mixed signals and, while it has said it remains open to Taiwan’s membership, has refrained from proactively lobbying other countries. Canada has taken a similar stance and has not yet openly supported Taiwan’s application.

This should change. As the second-largest economy within the CPTPP, Canada has the capacity to work together with Japan to shift the bloc’s dynamics. If Ottawa were to come out in support of Taiwan, while avoiding openly positioning this support as retaliation for China’s bullying, this would send a signal to Beijing that Canada can create problems if treated poorly.

Ottawa could also easily hide the retaliatory nature of such a move, as Canada already has strong reasons to support Taiwanese trade. Taiwanese-Canadian trade has skyrocketed in recent years, making Taiwan Canada’s 11th largest trading partner. In February, Ottawa and Taipei entered formal negotiations on a bilateral trade deal.

There is no reason why Canada should be complacent with China’s disrespect. Uplifting Taiwan through multilateral trade politics is a smart way to show that.