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Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou talks to media outside British Columbia Supreme Court after her extradition hearing ended on September 24, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo: by Ma Jun/VCG via Getty Images)

Foolish Retaliation Against China Is the Opposite of What the World Needs Right Now

Calling for a "reckoning" and "retaliation" against a nuclear-armed superpower is foolish and provocative—especially when we threw the first stone.

Linda McQuaig

 by Toronto Star

Call me faint-hearted but it strikes me as a bad idea to deliberately stir up trouble against a country armed with nuclear weapons.

So it’s ominous to hear the rattling of sabres by Canadians trying to push Ottawa towards punitive action against China for its detention of two Canadians called Michael.

Given the dubious U.S. charge against Meng—intended to enforce Trump’s capricious sanctions and to harass a competitor to U.S. tech dominance—Ottawa should have declined to co-operate with the U.S. extradition request.

China is an authoritarian, repressive country and its long detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were cruel and wrong; it’s wonderful the two men are finally free.

But the animus being stirred up against it is reckless and dangerous, and seems aimed at backing U.S. efforts by both the Trump and Biden administrations to isolate China and push back against its rising economic and technological power and the challenge this poses to U.S. hegemony.

These rustlings toward a new Cold War—while useful to U.S. military contractors keen to make the case that Washington faces a freshly stirring military threat from China—is exactly what the world does not need now.

Today’s most urgent global threat is climate change; we have at most 10 years left to get countries to start seriously recreating a world without fossil fuels. This requires co-operation (particularly with China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter), not hostility, trade wars or a fresh arms race.

Yet a number of prominent Canadians, including diplomats, academics and the right-wing Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI), have been ramping up calls for tougher actions against the Chinese government.

In an article on the MLI website last month, Howard Anglin, a former top adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, argued that, now that the Michaels are released, it’s time for a "reckoning" with China. He called for "retaliation" against the "evil regime.""Retaliation against the Chinese Communist regime would come with a price. No question. But … whatever the price of facing down China’s regime is now, it will only grow the longer it is put off."

What kind of reckless, swaggering talk is this?

In addition to being reckless, it’s also unwarranted—in that it fails to take into account Canada’s role in provoking the detention of the Michaels.

The crisis began with Canada’s highly unusual and provocative house arrest of Chinese corporate executive Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the high tech giant Huawei.

Canada had no reason or interest in detaining Meng, but Ottawa arrested her and held her for extradition on a far-fetched fraud charge for more than two years at the request of the United States.

The fraud charge appeared to be U.S. harassment towards Huawei, which is in fierce competition with U.S. tech giants for control of the North American telecommunications market. Washington has also placed Huawei on an export blacklist, denying it access to key technologies.

In charging Meng, the U.S. was acting well beyond its jurisdiction in what amounted to "imperial overreach at its worst," according to John Price, professor emeritus of History at the University of Victoria.

Furthermore, Meng’s "fraud," committed on behalf of Huawei, was an attempt to get around the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran—sanctions enacted in defiance of the nuclear treaty signed between Iran and the Obama administration and endorsed by the UN Security Council and the EU, in hopes of reducing the risk of nuclear war.

Given the dubious U.S. charge against Meng—intended to enforce Trump’s capricious sanctions and to harass a competitor to U.S. tech dominance—Ottawa should have declined to co-operate with the U.S. extradition request. That would have been well within our legal rights under Canada’s Extradition Act, according to extradition lawyer Gary Botting.

Instead, the Trudeau government capitulated, then tried to dress up its subservience to Washington as respect for "the rule of law"—ignoring America’s much more serious flouting of the "rule of law" in charging Meng to enforce illegal U.S. sanctions against Iran.

It was Canada’s cowardly, unprincipled submission to the U.S. extradition request that put Meng under house arrest in Vancouver—and prompted China to retaliate by imprisoning the two Michaels.

Calling for a "reckoning" and "retaliation" against a nuclear-armed superpower is foolish and provocative—especially when we threw the first stone.

© 2020
Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig is an author, journalist, and former NDP candidate for Toronto Centre in the Canadian federal election. The National Post has described her as “Canada’s Michael Moore.” She is also the author of "The Sport and Prey of Capitalists: How the Rich Are Stealing Canada's Public Wealth" (2019), "War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet: It's the Crude, Dude" (2006) and (with Neil Brooks) of "Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality" (2012).

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