Need an expert? Unrest in China / Canada's Indo-Pacific Strategy

Need an expert
 People gathered in Tiananmen Square
Markus Winkler (Unsplash)
Members of the media may directly contact the following experts:

Pascale Massot (English and French)

Assistant Professor, School of Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences.

[email protected]

Professor Massot's research interests include the global political economy of China’s rise, Canada-China and Canada-Asia relations. She was a member of the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs’ Indo-Pacific Advisory Committee.

“There have been multiple protests over the past decades in China which were mostly targeted at local measures or situations, such as environmental disasters or labour disputes. The current wave of protests is distinctive for at least two reasons: they have sprung in multiple cities across China at the same time, which denotes shared grievances, and they target the central government, more specifically Xi Jinping's Covid-zero policy.”


André Laliberté (English and French)

Full Professor, School of Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences & Research Chair in Taiwan Studies.

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“These are the largest demonstrations since 1989, but society and the regime have changed a lot since then. The Chinese people are more aware of the limits of their actions, but they also see more clearly the nature of the regime. The best possible outcome would be a palace coup, with Li Keqiang and Wang Yang returning to the Standing Committee and Xi Jinping taking early retirement. For such a scenario to be likely, the crisis would have to be even more serious and, above all, the repressive apparatus would have to hesitate, which would signal a challenge to Xi's authority.

“As for the idea of a more fundamental challenge to the Party's authority, Xi’s departure is inconceivable for a good number of years to come, as long as the Party does not allow the creation of independent political parties.”


Yongjing Zhang (English and Mandarin)

Associate Professor, Economics, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Faculty of Social Sciences.

[email protected]

Professor Zhang's expertise on China includes its economy and governance, political economy, social discussion and institutional change.


Scott Simon (English, French, Mandarin, Japanese and German)

Full Professor, School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, and member of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre

[email protected]

"There is a lot of pent-up frustration, Xi Jinping is actually very unpopular and the COVID policies have pushed the government into a difficult situation. So the fire in Urumqi set off inevitable protests, and it is unclear where this will lead.

"The Chinese people want the same human rights and freedoms as all other peoples and there is more empathy for the suffering of the Uyghurs than we have seen publicly so far. And human rights is what unites the two issues when you factor in the Indo-Pacific strategy. Human rights is a transversal theme that is mentioned no fewer than 16 times and specifically says Canada will press China on human rights, including the Uyghurs."

Alex Neve (English only)

Senior Fellow, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Faculty of Social Sciences.

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"The courageous protests in China need to be watched closely by the international community. It is a sign of deep discontent, given that the potential consequences are swift arrest, imprisonment and mistreatment. It reinforces how crucial it is that a robust action plan for addressing human rights concerns in China be a central component of Canada's Indo-Pacific Strategy."