So nobody traded anything for anybody. According to official statements, the release of China’s Meng Wanzhou, within hours, at the request of the US Justice Department, the Huawei Technologies executive detained in Canada for nearly three years, and Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, Ms Meng. Immediately after their arrest, they were held captive in China, they had nothing to do with each other.
Although US President Joe Biden raised the subject of the two Michaels in a September 9 phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping – and however pointed out that Mr Biden insisted on any deal against Ms Meng “to drop the US extradition case”. “Couldn’t happen unless two Canadians were released at the same time” – in fact, there was no such deal.
US prosecutors decided to drop the charges against Ms Meng only. Similarly, China also decided to release two Michaels on the same day.
and Canada? Canada also officially made no concessions to China or the United States. Mr. Biden’s interference with China on the part of the two Canadians, such as the decision to drop the charges against Ms. Meng, was not in retaliation for any undertakings of any kind on our part.
Well, it could be true. Like Canada after all? The United States has an independent system of prosecution, in which the President cannot interfere. It is therefore unclear what he could have offered in relation to Ms. Meng’s fate. But if there wasn’t a deal, why was there such a consensus that—indeed, it was an old-fashioned prisoner swap?
And if China’s latest adventure in hostage diplomacy turns out to be such a resounding success—the release of one of its most prominent tools of state-sponsored industrial espionage in exchange for two random friends who aren’t even America—that’s why it’s believed That a lot will change after this, either in China’s approach or our own?
The presumption is that the Liberal government’s China policy has been held hostage with two Michaels – that while they were imprisoned, Canada was bound to see a succession of Chinese outrage against our interests and our values on the other side, but now that they have been released, we are free, as An international relations professor described it as, “Stop the Pussyfooting Around.”
Really? Leave aside that China continues to hold over a hundred Canadians, including Robert SchellenbergThe two were sentenced to death for drug trafficking shortly after the arrests of Michaels, and Hussein Selil, a Canadian citizen and ethnic Uighur who has been sitting in a Chinese prison cell since 2006. If we were unwilling to stand before China as long as the two Michaels were imprisoned, why would we be more inclined to do so while the others remain?
But in fact Canada’s policy of strategic pussyfooting dates back to long before Michaels’ arrest. The reason, if anything, is the other way around: Canada’s policy on China hasn’t been weak and unsteady because they were taken prisoner—they were taken prisoner, arguably, because we were so weak and wavering. There’s a reason China targeted Canada instead of the US in retaliation for Ms Meng’s arrest: because they knew, or suspected, it would work better against us.
Or if it is mandatory to lick a cat’s feet in front of hostages, how is it that Australia is able to take such a strong line from us, although it has at least many of its citizens In Chinese prisons? In recent years, Australia has banned Huawei from its 5G wireless networks, passed legislation to restrict foreign influence operations, and regularly and explicitly flagged human rights abuses at home and international law abroad. China has been condemned for crimes against
Has the Canadian government done any of this? What will it do, now that the two Michaels have been released? Will it impose Magnitsky-style sanctions against prominent members of the Chinese government? Will he oppose China’s application for membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Will it forge closer alliances with China’s rivals in the region, including India?
Will it now speak out against Chinese human rights abuses: the repression of Hong Kong, the genocide of the Uighurs, the decades-long suffocation of Tibet? Will it recognize Taiwan as an independent country for a long time?
Don’t bet on it. It is not the fate of the two Michaels that has prevented the government from taking a firm stand on China. It is a seamless mix of ideas ranging from protecting the commercial interests of leading liberals to the geopolitical imaginings of Canada as the “middle power” between US and Chinese hegemony.
This was the problem before being held hostage; This problem will remain for a long time.
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