Anyone who still imagines the Trump administration’s partly successful effort to get Canada to seize and extradite Meng Wanzhou to the land of chaos and COVID had anything to do with “the rule of law” needs to consider the implications of yesterday’s report in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. justice department is in “talks” with the Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. chief financial officer to let her walk.
It was evident as soon as Meng was arrested during a stopover at Vancouver International Airport two years ago this week that participating in this charade to support the Trump administration’s effort to extort China into a politically inspired trade deal was not in Canada’s interest.
Amid all the pious pronouncements about the rule of law by Canadian officials, no one has ever suggested that the RCMP acted without consulting anyone in Ottawa. Still, surely that must be considered a possibility, given the damage this has done to Canada, and continues to do, the potential for which should have been obvious from the get-go.
And that was well before the arrest in China of the two Michaels, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, put a couple of Canadian faces on this cruel fiasco.
If anyone thought the Americans’ motives had anything to do with the rule of law, President Donald Trump cleared that up less than two weeks after Meng’s December 1 arrest with his statement he would intervene to let her go if it helped him get the trade deal with China he coveted.
“If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made, which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene,” Trump told Reuters on December 11, 2018.
The U.S. knock against Huawei — other than the fact it is a successful high-technology competitor from a country that won’t bow to the Washington consensus, of course — was that it had supposedly broken American sanctions on Iran, reimposed with dubious legality after Trump spitefully pulled out of his predecessor Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with that country.
Now Trump is a lame duck, although still quacking as if won the November 3 election he decisively lost. The president-elect is Joe Biden, Obama’s former vice-president. Biden has vowed to restore the Iran nuclear deal.
So, suddenly, the justice department is willing to do a little deal to send Meng home!
All she has to do is sign a piece of paper that admits some guilt, presumably to make it a little easier for the U.S. authorities to make trouble for Huawei in the future.
But even the justice department all but admits they’ll never charge her if she’ll only just say she’s done something wrong, according to the WSJ — which, since it has one of the few effective paywalls in what’s left of the newspaper business, is channelled here by the CBC.
That’s unlikely to happen either. China and Huawei now hold a strong hand. There’s no need for them to accept a lousy plea bargain. Meng will soon enough bid good riddance to Vancouver and go home to China just the same because it’s in no one’s interests to pursue this charade much longer.
At this point, the negotiations are only about saving face. The Americans would like something they can call a victory, although probably not badly enough to risk anything.
The Chinese government will certainly get to declare victory because it stood up to the biggest bully on the planet.
Meng will come out of this with her dignity intact, and Huawei will get back to business dealing with trade barriers and security concerns, which in this case may well be the same thing.
God willing, Kovrig and Spavor will get to quickly come home.
The only people who will look like chumps will be us Canadians, who took the punishment for the ridiculous U.S. effort to conduct international trade negotiations with a rising superpower by holding hostages.
Conservative critics of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, by the way, would like us to think they would have been “tougher” with China, thereby getting better results. This is a pathetic fantasy rooted in nothing but the Opposition’s contemptuous assessment of the gullibility of Canadian voters.
We should have sent Meng home on about New Year’s Day 2019. It would have saved a lot of grief and money, which was now clearly all for nothing.
We should send her home right now, while we still have a small bargaining chip of our own to get the two Michaels safely back — instead of letting the Biden administration, which has much bigger fish to fry, futz around to save the United States from further Trump-induced humiliation.
That would send a message to Washington and Beijing alike that our cops may wear silly hats and pay no attention to the national interest, but we’re not all boy scouts.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
Image: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr