Cybersecurity at a Crossroads: Government Perceptions of Sino-Canadian Relations in a Digital Context
Sparling, David Albert
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Over the past decade, cybersecurity has emerged as a key locus of national security policy. The importance of cybersecurity will only increase as states navigate the transition to next-generation internet and telecommunications infrastructure. In the government debates of western democracies, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Chinese corporations are frequently cast in the role of challengers to the liberal international order. As a member of the highly integrated Five Eyes intelligence network, Canada has experienced both internal and external pressures to take a firmer stance against foreign direct investment by telecoms giant Huawei and other Chinese corporations on national security grounds. This thesis project uses directed content analysis to examine how government actors construct and present political narratives on cybersecurity concerns related to China during the 42nd Parliament of Canada (December 3, 2015 to September 11, 2019). NVIVO 12 qualitative analysis software was used to categorize and code data from the debates of the House of Commons, the Senate, and the minutes of select parliamentary committees. Deborah Stone’s typology of political narratives is employed to interpret opposing storylines relating to cyberthreats posed to Canada by Chinese state activity. Findings reveal a significant paradigmatic division on Chinese cybersecurity threats separating not only the Justin Trudeau Liberal government and the Conservative Opposition, but also the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), two of Canada’s core intelligence agencies. Whereas both the Liberal government and the CSE broadly promote a narrative of control in relation to cyberthreats, Conservative Party representatives and current and former CSE officials consistently depict of narrative of national security decline and mounting dangers. The existence of these polarized positions within both Parliament and the federal security establishment point to the challenges of crafting coherent, state-facing cybersecurity policy related to the PRC. In addition to revealing this paradigmatic divide, this analysis illustrates the integral role of geopolitical dynamics in Canadian cybersecurity policymaking, particularly the “Five Eyes” security collaboration between Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand the United Kingdom. These findings demonstrate the need for inter-agency and international fora to develop enforceable norms of cyber-conduct.
DegreeMaster of Public Policy (M.P.P.)
DepartmentJohnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
CommitteeHolroyd, Carin; Rayner, Jeremy; Rasmussen, Ken; Gaal, Martin
Copyright DateJune 2021