While China works to apply diplomatic pressure on the renegade governments of Canada and the United States in pursuit of securing the freedom of the political prisoner Meng Wanzhou, the US and its northern ally have already set a supremely dangerous and worrisome global precedent that threatens the human rights of innocent people throughout the world. By arresting a Chinese businesswoman who had violated no Canadian laws, the government in Ottawa has made it clear that no foreign national is safe on the soil of a close US ally if such a foreigner’s homeland is a nation with which Washington has even mild strategic disagreements. This means that it is now highly like that an Iranian businessman in France, a Russian businessman in Australia or a Venezuelan businessman in Britain could face a similar situation as that which Meng is facing as a Chinese businesswoman in Canada.
Apart from sending fear into the hearts of otherwise law abiding and professionally successful individuals, the precedent that has been set by the US and its Canadian ally represents the last gasp of brutal unilateralism in a world whose overall momentum is pushing in the direction of multilateralism. While most of the world is embracing the essence of win-win global relationships, the US seems hellbent on dragging the world into an atmosphere of hostility not known since the World Wars of the 20th century. The zero-sum mentality is now the official geopolitical and geo-economic creed of very powerful individuals in Washington.
There is a powerful argument to be made that economic protectionism (now perversely called economic nationalism) was the primary cause of the First World War. As businesses in one given nation became increasing cut off from customer bases, supply chains and business partners in rival states and alliances, there became an impetus among the private sector to encourage the military-industrial complex of its day to destroy rival nations so as to open their protected markets to businesses from the militarily victorious nation.
By contrast, in a system based on and reliant on the free flow of goods and capital throughout the world, it is in the mutual interests of the wider business community to seek peace as any conflict along the belts and roads of a free trading network can have adverse effects on continued growth, innovation and progress in the marketplace. It is this model of free trade through which China seeks to build a world predicated on the principle of peace through prosperity within the framework of international connectivity, multilateral cooperation and rules based respect for national sovereignty and each nation’s cultural characteristics.
And yet by keeping Meng Wanzhou as a political prisoner, the US and Canada have staked their claim as allies that seek to divide the world into violently rivalling economic blocs rather than create a more harmonious global economic and political atmosphere by embracing the phenomenon of peace through prosperity.
At a time when many in the US seek to defame and even to derail the Belt and Road global connectivity initiative, the reckless actions of the US and its allies have inadvertently transformed a flagship trading and prosperity creating project into one of the great moral and ethical causes of the contemporary era. While those responsible for the kidnapping and detention of Meng have taken the lowest road imaginable, Belt and Road has always represented the high road within the framework of modern multilateral connectivity. At the heart of the Belt and Road initiative is a people-centred mentality that looks to help each and every partner nation to realise its economic strengths while using the power of open trade to compensate for areas where a given economy is lacking.
Furthermore, by opening up new markets to nations whose products had been comparatively isolated from major global trading networks, Belt and Road is helping to elevate living standards among the developing world while offering the developed world opportunities to embrace sustainable growth models that will help to avoid the onset of economic stagnation.
Beyond this, a commitment to Belt and Road is also a commitment to the rule of law, a mentality that respects mutually agreed rules rather than one which lies prostrate before a bestial hegamon and a system which cherishes rather than degrades the sovereignty and unique cultural characteristics among the nations of the world. Ultimately, this is the best long term method through which to fight the increasingly violent tendencies of nations seeking to rule the world rather than help the world – those who seek to show might through the sowing of fear rather than those who seek to demonstrate power by planting the seeds of growth.
A world that is made more interconnected through Belt and Road will be a world where common destinies of peace through prosperity replace the animal tendencies of those who perversely thrive in a spirit of violent competition that ought to have died in 1918. The moral message of Belt and Road is that it is possible to maintain one’s national dignity, uphold human rights and become more materially wealthy without having to travel down the dark paths of violence, provocation or war.
These messages have always been an implicit part of the Belt and Road mentality, but now that the US has so clearly chosen another path, the rest of the world must choose peace over the tyranny of hegemony and this means looking with optimism at Belt and Road.