Now that a judge has delivered a blow to Meng Wanzhou’s hopes of soon casting off her GPS ankle bracelet and returning to China, it is Canada bracing itself.
The thuggish Communist regime running China and now exerting itself around the globe will not take kindly to Judge Heather Holmes’ refusal to be cowed by the country’s not-so-veiled threats and intimations that Ms. Meng be released immediately or else.
Now we wait to see what form these warnings by regime officials and their proxies will take. The most obvious target of their wrath are the two Michaels: Spavor and Kovrig, the two Canadians who were arrested in December, 2018 under trumped up espionage charges. What they are, in fact, are hostages whose fate is destined to be tied to Ms. Meng’s.
It seems certain now that nothing good will come of their short-term future. They will continue to languish in rotten conditions in a Chinese prison. Ms. Meng, meantime, will spend her days in one of two Vancouver mansions she owns until the next phase of her extradition hearing on U.S.-related fraud and sanctions-busting charges, allegedly carried out in her role as a senior executive at the Chinese technology giant Huawei, gets underway in a few months.
It’s also possible that China could impose further trade sanctions on Canadian imports, something it did already in an early retaliation for the arrest of Ms. Meng.
While there is certainly a lot of pain a country as big and formidable as China could exact on a little country like Canada, it really is unclear what it will do, if anything, in a bid to seek revenge for the Meng decision. But perhaps the bigger question is: What would Canada do in response?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in a difficult spot. Canadians’ patience with China has clearly run out. China’s despicable conduct in Hong Kong has only fortified the resentment Canadians hold toward a cruel and treacherous regime that is increasingly a menace to the world. In a recent Angus Reid poll, 76 per cent of respondents said Canada should prioritize human rights and the rule of law over economic opportunity.
Canadians would love to see Mr. Trudeau take a tougher line with China. And that pressure will only build if harsher measures against the two Michaels are doled out in retaliation for Wednesday’s ruling. But what can we do that won’t hurt us more than it hurts them?
We exported $24.4-billion worth of products to China in 2019 – everything from wood to oil seeds. And we imported more than $46-billion worth of Chinese goods, according to Statistics Canada. We could boycott some of those goods, I suppose, but that will hurt Canadian companies that rely on them and their inexpensive price points. China has become Canada’s second largest trading partner. Do we really want to get into a trade war that would devastate sectors of our economy – especially now?
Or maybe we could end the relationship the National Research Council has forged with China to develop a vaccine that could inoculate Canadians against COVID-19. Would the majority of the country be in favour of that? I doubt it.
“There is not a lot Canada can do to fight back,” says Wenran Jiang, adjunct professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia.
“This decision is not the end of the world for Meng Wanzhou. She still has a chance to defend herself and make her case that her extradition to the U.S. be denied. I think this entire situation can be managed through diplomatic channels.”
Whether China responds in the coming days with punitive actions against Canada or not, one thing our government should do is get on with the decision on Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s bid to be part of the development of 5G networks in this country. The only answer here is no.
Canada has been dragging its feet on this for months now and surely knows which way it’s going. It can’t be swayed by the Meng case and any fallout from it. It can only be guided by national security concerns and on that front there is enough evidence to suggest Huawei is a threat. So let’s get on with it.
It’s also time we reset our relationship with China. It doesn’t mean we sever all ties with the country, but does mean that relationship is guided by some principles, guided by the values this country is supposed to believe in.
That means when a country behaves like a corrupt, obstreperous bully, particularly toward us, we call them out on it. Canadians demand no less.
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