Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver (Photo: Harrison Ha, Xinhua News Agency).

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 Ms. 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. 

Canadian Michael Kovrig (Photo: Twitter).

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 Ms. Meng’s Dec. 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,” Mr. Trump told the Reuters News Agency on Dec. 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 Mr. Trump spitefully pulled out of his predecessor Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with that country.

Now Mr. Trump is a lame duck, although still quacking as if won the Nov. 3 election he decisively lost. The president-elect is Joe Biden, Mr. Obama’s former vice-president. Mr. Biden has vowed to restore the Iran nuclear deal. 

So, suddenly, the Justice Department is willing to do a little deal to send Ms. 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.

Canadian Michael Spavor (Photo: Facebook).

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. Ms. 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. 

American soon-to-be-ex-president Donald Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

Ms. 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, Mr. Kovrig and Mr. 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 Ms. 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. 

Join the Conversation


  1. I highly doubt that the CPC would be tough on China. They were also starting trade deals with China. If I recall, it was also the CPC that did the extradition deal with the USA, during the last decade. The CPC just caved in to the US government’s demands. The CPC thinks they would have handled a lot of things differently, including with the Covid-19 matter, but it is just talk.

    1. Erin O’Toole yells a lot. His yelling would not help Canada repair the damage this case has done to trade and cultural exchanges with China. Ms. Meng should be released immediately. We should not have allowed ourselves to get caught up in Trump’s trade negotiations. And let’s stop talking about rule of law. Ms. Meng did not break Canadian or international law. And, if she broke US law it should not be our problem.

  2. Love Trump or hate him you have to appreciate the honesty, we took her for leverage. Even the Chinese government felt the need to make up a story when nabbing the Canadians.

    Lost in this seems to be that one of the banks she supposably lied to HSBC got off years ago with a very gentle slap on the wrist. So she is ultimately being charged with lying to a bank. Bank gets caught violating the law, no debate there, and turns around and says they were lied to.

  3. According to an investigative piece by the Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife the real driving force behind Meng’s arrest was John Bolton, the US National Security Advisor, just as Trump was sitting down with the Chinese leader Xi whathisname for trade talks.

    Trump claims he had no knowledge of the arrest and was caught off guard. Maybe Bolton, working at the behest of the “deep state” who were upset over Trump’s moves to normalize relations with North Korea, wanted to throw a monkey wrench in Trump’s diplomatic toolkit to prevent any deal with China. In any event, Trump and Bolton never saw eye to eye and Bolton was fired a year later.

  4. “had anything to do with the rule of law”

    Well of course it has to do with the rule of law. Our laws, not the US’s.

    Its pretty funny people wanting to allow law not apply to the 1%. Course if you’re using them as a scape goat you have to have them around.

    1. If we were really a country of the “rule of law,” Jason Kenney and the whole UCP caucus would be facing charges of criminal negligence causing death. That will never happen because we are mostly a country of the “rule BY law,” and as more than one Judge has written: “the tumult of history” shows where that ends up.

      Oh, and Bret: your assignment for today is to look up “extraterritoriality” and ask if the US sanctions against Iran were in accordance with international law or even Canadian law. Please integrate the two concepts as they apply to a vassal state like Canada. The correct answer is the effective kidnapping of Ms. Meng by Canadian authorities was the application of a foreign law, US sanctions against Iran, by a foreign power inside Canada.
      So NOT our laws.

  5. The canola farmers especially with be happy if she was sent home last year! Along with the other farm groups that are paying the price of Chinese sanctions caused by the illegal detention of the Huawei executive. Canada, for it’s own well being, must withdraw from the 5 Eyes arrangement.

  6. Patience.

    Canada cannot proceed until everyone in Trump’s criminal administration are out, and that includes the big orange baby. This won’t happen until after the January 20 inauguration.

    Meanwhile, Canada has its own version of the orange baby to deal with (aka kenny). I think we have more pressing issues to deal with right now. COVID, COVID, COVID.

    First things first. Let’s stop the negligent homicide that’s happening at home, then we can deal with the US-Wanzhou/Huawei affair later- fair enough?

  7. We sucked up to Trump only because we were afraid to say no for fear of economic reprisals against Canada. And in so doing were ended up by putting the two Michaels in a Chinese jail.

    It is the same in the case of Venezuela where Canada condemns the democratically elected Nicolas Maduro as a communist dictator. We will find out the truth to Canada’s further embarrassment when their coming election returns him to continued power probably by about 68% of the voters. Mind you Canada’s mining corporations still want to mine Venezuela’s gold or probably steal it with rock bottom royalties to Venezuela.

    Neither Trudeau or the Conservative opposition have any idea about diplomacy.

  8. I do have an issue with those in our country who mindlessly go on about us being a country of rules and laws, as if it is some mantra to chant that wards off evil spirits. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that.

    Of course, China also has many rules and laws and while they may be more arbitrary in the application of them, the western world is not perfect in this either and not necessarily getting better. For instance, Nixon would have loved to have gotten the treatment Trump did – power and wealth does seem to provide a great deal of protection from the application of rules and laws, but unfortunately that seems to be a fairly universal thing.

    I suppose this all arose because we got caught between two bigger powers. If Canada has to choose between the US and China, I have a fairly good idea which we will side with most or all of the time. However, we are only responsible for our action and others for theirs. I am not sure the Chinese realize how much good will in Canada and the west they had and now have lost by trying to engage in hostage diplomacy in this situation. Political sentiment in Canada has turned against China now, so I suspect the Government of Canada will probably not be inclined to do much if anything to help them in this situation. I suspect in the end it will be left to the US and China to somehow work things out on this issue, if they can.

    I think the world was hopeful about a decade or so ago that China would use its growing influence and power in more moderate and responsible ways and not just copy the bad behaviour of other past and present world powers. Perhaps that may still happen. A new US government that is not as belligerent might prompt China to rethink and change its behaviour significantly, but I doubt it. A change in leadership in the US may result in changes in its behaviour, but in China the leadership will likely remain the same. I don’t think they get how counterproductive their overly aggressive approach is. Perhaps no one dares tell them, or perhaps they just don’t want to listen.

    In any event, the world will go on, but I think attitudes to China in Canada and elsewhere in the west have changed considerably based on what happened in this situation, more recently in Hong Kong and in numerous other recent interactions with China and other countries. We will all be more guarded in how we deal with them and look elsewhere more to do business. It is not as if there are not other countries that can manufacture things cheaply and have growing markets – Vietnam and India quickly come to mind. I doubt any western country will be very eager to resume business with China and Huawei as in the past, regardless of the outcome of the Meng case.

  9. One of the rare times I have disagreed with you, David but only with your conclusion.

    Once the trigger was pulled so to speak with arresting Meng the die was cast. To be seen internationally as bowing to Chinese threats and obvious kidnapping of two Canadians would have been likely disastrous as organizations, nations and groups line up and are willing to do the same to leverage us.

  10. Backlash over ‘Free Meng Wanzhou’ event reflects growing anti-China sentiment
    -Bianca Mugyenyi
    “100 former Canadian diplomats signed a letter asking prime minister Trudeau to release Meng. Former PM Jean Chrétien, former foreign affairs ministers Lawrence Cannon and Lloyd Axworthy, as well as former senator Hugh Segal and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, have also proposed cancelling Meng’s extradition to the United States.”

  11. This Trump inspired “Get CHYNIA!!!” nonsense must end and end soon. China has been long data-mining through their various government agencies and corporate interests, but their level of intelligence gathering is no different than similar data-mining operations practised by western government agencies and their respective corporate interests.

    How is data-mining by Facebook or Amazon any different than data-mining done by a Huawei device? The only difference is that the western technologies companies want a data-mining monopoly and are seeking to exclude Chinese companies from the enormous data pile. So, the notion that China is spying on the west through a Huawei device was dreamed up. If China is involved in data-mining for the purpose of spying, they could do it through any one of hundreds of thousands of possible avenues. All those Chinese-made appliances, automotive systems, computers, phones are generating billions and billions of data streams for commercial exploitation that has been long ignored.

    The tempest in a teapot over Meng Wanzhou must end immediately.

  12. Thank you, as usual, Dave, for an interesting article.
    I hope this all works out as you speculate. This will actually be the *best* Canada could do, a wannabe Boy Scout between two Titans. We caught Ms. Meng, as the USA directed us to. But we didn’t just turn her over; we made a big fuss about being a ‘rule of law’ society and we gave her a trial. The Canadian judge is, to the extent that she can be without forcing a mistrial, sympathetic to the US position and antagonistic to China and Huawei. But she is ‘compelled’ to hear the defence’s arguments, and must, each time, take the time to allow each issue to be raised, and then stake the time to properly sweep it off the table. So we show the Americans we really are on side but we just have to have the paperwork look right, and they roll their eyes, but they know what we’re like and they put up with it.
    Meanwhile, Ms. Meng is held in Canada, not in an American prison; she has not yet crossed the Event Horizon. The Chinese are not happy Canada kidnapped one of their citizens, as they see it. But as long as she is in Canada, there is a chance to get her back home. All we had to do was play out the clock, and we may have just done that. If she does get back home, no one will be too pissed off at us, so we win!
    Should Canada try to force the US hand by releasing her before they want us to? Risky, and we would be the ones trying to save face then.
    One way this could play out is that Ms. Meng signs a plea bargain confessing wrongdoing and the two Michaels sign plea bargains confessing to spying. Then everyone goes home.

  13. My guess is that Meng Wanzhou and Huawei would not accept plea bargain because they do not trust the US. They would afraid that a plea bargain would create more problems than they have now.
    The Meng Wanzhou arrest is a watershed event that caused the Chinese government to pause and think over how they need to change its relation with Canada and the five-eye countries. As it is played out, among many other events, China loses its positive image, though not much given the continuing Canadian main media China bashung(and Chinese bashing with COVID pandemic), to Canadians, but has managed to rally Chinese in China. The Chinese finally realized that they have to rely upon themselves for their own future, and the pro-west Chinese intellectuals lost their voice within China almost immediately after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou. The Chinese government has also changed its economic policy by placing more emphasis on even domestic development, and its foreign policy from focusing on the US to about equal weights on its neighboring countries and the US. One piece of the evidence is the announcement of the RECP accord with Southeast Asian countries, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.
    I think that the rule of law in Canada can still be believed as long as a case is not related to another country or political considerations and given that sufficient resources are available. In Meng Wanzhou’s case, it was not considered as political to a great number of Chinese I had encountered with. But as the case proceeding moves along, people come to recognize that it becomes political. The general public no longer believe that Meng Wanzhou would not be given a fair treatment. Some of the actions on the part of Canadian side that smell politically motivated include the following:1) claiming the arrest of the two Michael’s as hostage foreign policy 2) the firing of John MacCallum, 3) rallying allies to gang up against China for the release of the two Michael’s (this reminds Chinese of the allied forces invasion of China at beginning of the last century.)
    As a Chinese-Canadian, I feel so bad about the deterioration in the relation between Canada and China. The China and Chinese bashing by main media and the existence of systematic racism, although I have not seen much racism in my work place, cause me wonder if I had made the right choice to make Canada home for my children and me.

  14. Regarding the Meng Wanzhou issue. In the comments above Dave said “However, we are only responsible for our action and others for theirs.” This is so true – so let’s look at our actions;
    We have arrested and detained a very, very senior executive of a very important Chinese company on behalf of the US administration and it’s clearly for political purpose. So we are participating in a hostage situation – because make no mistake, if Meng Wanzhou is extradited it’s entirely probable that she will face a life sentence in the US. “Oh no you say, she has only been charged with fraud.” Well we don’t know what other secret grand jury accusations may await her – the US will have her as a hostage and they will exploit that. Just look at the history of people who have opposed the US Empire. Who is being the aggressor here?
    If we capitulate and send Meng Wanzhou south to be used as a pawn in the US hegemony bargaining strategy the Chinese people will remember that long after we’ve forgotten about her. And what about the US appreciation for our “rule of law?” In international diplomacy it’s about what can you do for me now, and we will be on our own. Anyone who thinks the US cares about us needs to wake up.
    In the world of diplomacy ALL countries operate according to what they think is best for their citizens, essentially “what is best for us at this point in time.” Nonetheless, if we allow Ms. Meng to be extradited to be used as an economic hostage by the USA, the citizens in China will never forget that. There was some talk upthread about how China is perceived by Canadians. Well I can guarantee you that how Canada is perceived by China’s citizens will be determined by how we treat China’s citizens. Imagine that Canadian workers might be grabbed by whomever wherever and used as bargaining chips in some kind of fabricated trade war, China might just say “Oh yeah so what?” To clarify – if we send Ms. Meng down to the US so they can do what they wish with her the US gets what they want but you can be sure that will not be the end of it for us.
    This is diplomacy folks, it’s not just a matter of what’s right or wrong or the “rule of law” bullshit. Canada has been put in a tough place, either figure it out or we all suffer the consequences…

  15. Further to the “two Michaels” drama. I know it’s hard to prove a negative but why are we so sure they were not actually spying? After all even Canadian spies will deny they are spies, right? Canada has spies at different levels all over the world, actually I know some of them.

  16. I say, a plague on both their houses (meaning the PRC & the USA) — figuratively speaking, of course, this expression being a bit too on point for today’s times. There is no doubt that the US’ charges against Ms Meng were a scam — or, dare I say, “Trumped up”, and their extradition request bogus.

    But once she was arrested — in that genteel Canadian way that doesn’t apply if you’re Indigenous or poor, but does if you’re rich with lots of expensive lawyers — the government of the People’s Republic of China acted despicably in how it overreacted. It didn’t take some richy-rich, well-connected Canadian into genteel house arrest: it essentially kidnapped not one, but two innocent Canadians, and put them into the most difficult conditions of detention imaginable in the modern age. It also retaliated on the agricultural trade front, and arrested a couple of other Canadians on drug charges that carry the death penalty in that country.

    So, now we’re stuck: if we return Meng to China, we’re knuckling under to blackmail. But if she ends up extradited to the US, the two Michaels are in even greater jeopardy. The only good outcome, IMHO, is if the courts decide not to send her to the States. And, from,what I’ve heard about extradition law, that’s a pretty unlikely prospect.

  17. I say again – how can we be so sure these two Canadians are innocent? Maybe the guys charged with drug trafficking are innocent too?

    Oh yeah we’re stuck alright, but we should admit that we started this. That might actually help the situation.

  18. I think the case of Meng Wanzhou and the cases of the two Michaels will have to be resolved through the political wills of the three countries involved — Canada, China and the USA. Otherwise, the three persons who were captured and lost their freedom would be expected to suffer more and for long time. Politicians need to stop political posturing to work for a resolution. Also, do not put the onerous burden on the judges. Leaving it to the judges is too much for the judges and also generates too much publicity and media uproar, and stir up too much dirt. Cut a win-win-win deal through diplomatic channel.

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