With all nuance of a poorly made mafia film, the United States Justice Department issued a criminal indictment against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who is expected to be extradited to US soil from Canada where she was first unlawfully detailed in December. At the same time as US authorities read off an increasingly ridiculous set of charges against Meng, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington D.C. for continued talks on ending Donald Trump’s trade war. This makes it clear that as Donald Trump himself indicated in December, Meng’s (extra)judicial harassment at the hands of Washington and its ally in Ottawa has everything to do with the trade war between the US and China, the overall US war on Chinese companies competing in a globalised free market and little if nothing to do with anything else.
A human sacrifice
The first and foremost tragedy in this entire pathetic saga is that an innocent mother has been deprived of freedom for nearly two months, simply because of her record as a successful business woman. When Donald Trump was asked by a reporter in December if Meng might be ordered free should the trade war end in a manner that the US felt was favourable, he stated:
“If I think it’s good for what will certainly be the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene [in Meng’s case] if I thought it was necessary”.
Now, with Vice Premier Liu in the US at the same time as the indictment against Meng has been read out, there can be little doubt as to the choreographed nature of these two events. Much though China has and will continue to compartmentalise its manifold relations with the US and as such has separated severe criticism of Meng’s inhumane treatment from the desire to end the trade war on a win-win resolution, the US is making it so that discussing both issues at the same time and place becomes somewhat unavoidable.
Because of this, it means that Meng is more than just an innocent person, but she is also a hostage to discussions regarding the trade war. China is now in a position where it cannot and will not sacrifice its long standing and widely known positions of seeking a resolution to the trade war involving a mutual opening up of markets (including opening its vast domestic market to more US goods than at any time in contemporary Chinese history), but beyond this, China will not sign any humiliating agreements with any power. Some in Washington may not realise this, but such an age is long over.
At the same time, China has its own leverage it can use regarding the issue of Meng, not least because unlike with countries like the DPRK, Iran and Russia, the US private sector does not want its own access to China’s vast markets to be sacrificed due to geopolitical brinkmanship.
Therefore, while the US continues to use Meng as a sacrificial human pawn in its game of trade war brinkmanship, China too has a great deal of separate but equal leverage it can apply in respect of securing Meng’s freedom.
T-mobile issue long settled
Among the smorgasbord of charges brought against Meng included one stemming from an old dispute between Huawei and the US company T-mobile. First of all, it appears deeply overblown that such a dispute involving trade secrets should rise to such a level. This is true not least because T-mobile and Huawei long ago settled the dispute in an American civil court in 2017. Thus, so far as T-mobile itself is concerned, the issue at hand is one that has long been settled to the satisfaction of the American company. If dredging up an old and settled issue is the best that the US Justice Department can come up with, it makes it clear that they have well and truly scraped the bottom of the barrel in an attempt to provoke China and humiliate a Chinese company.
The Iran smokescreen
Meng has also been indicted on charges relating to her company’s alleged commercial relations with Iran. As Canada’s former Ambassador to China John McCallum pointed out, Canada has consistently opposed the Trump administration’s policy of unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 JCPOA (aka Iran nuclear deal) and as such does not enforce US sanctions against Iran which Canada continues to reject in line with Canada’s European partners. Furthermore, as China has likewise rejected Donald Trump’s unilateral policy of sanctioning Iran, there is nothing criminal let alone devious about a Chinese company transacting with entities and individuals in Iran. This of course assumes that this part of the allegation against Meng is true in the first place, something which given the other accusations cannot be taken for granted.
Sacrificing liberty for security and receiving neither
US founding father Benjamin Franklin famously stated that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety“. Today, whether in the US, Canada or in the European Union, the pantomime false flag of “security” is being used to justify restrictions on consumer liberty in matters that have nothing to do with protecting the safety of human beings, but have everything to do with protecting corporate interests.
For the United States, stopping Chinese companies from competing in a free, globalised market remains a goal and most deviously of all, the US is attempting to do this not only by erecting tariff barriers which are nothing but a regressive tax on American consumers, but also by forcing its allies to curtail the economic activity of Chinese firms by invoking the big “security” lie. The fact of the matter is that even a child could see that while the use of a foreign company’s smartphone is not a clear and present danger in the way that terrorism or street crime is, by invoking the notion that foreign competition in a globalised free market should be restricted due to alleged “security threats”, it is plainly obvious that nations which state that they believe in free markets, actually believe in the opposite.
Beyond this, far from simply saying that free markets are bad for companies whose technologies are either lagging behind the competition or are otherwise bad value for money from the perspective of the consumer, the “security threat” lie is dragged out in order to shield governments like that of the United States from otherwise obvious accusations of hypocrisy. It is all the more hypocritical that governments like those in Europe that are witnessing an avalanche of street crime, terrorism and extremist political movements growing in their nations, should pretend that they care about security issues involving mobile phone technology while the average citizen is frightened to walk in the streets of once safe European cities. Such arguments are therefore nothing short of an insult to the intelligence of the average person whose priorities are far more reasonable than that of their respective governments.
The ironic reality is that in the 21st century, all governments spy on other governments and beyond this, most governments spy on their own citizens. This was true even before Edward Snowden revealed the extent to which US authorities spy on Americans. Furthermore, even if one were to believe the Sinophonic “security” canard, one has far more to fear regarding their own government spying on them than a foreign government doing so. This is true for the simple reason that while China cannot abuse the due process of a US or European citizen in America or Europe – the US and European governments certainly can do so and indeed have done so – just ask Julian Assange.
Thus, even if one was so naive as to believe that curtailing free and open market competition was motivated by actual security concerns rather than by corporate protectionism, even then the argument does not hold water as China could not detain or persecute someone in Europe or the US even if they wanted to do so.
The contemporary rules based trading system is under threat from the rogue behaviour of Washington as Chinese and other foreign companies are being treated not like fair competition in a globalised market, but like a rival military engaged in a war. Such a reckless mindset threatens to destroy the rules based global trading system whilst simultaneously destroying the individual’s liberty to use his or her money to buy whatever one believes is the most suitable product. The use of violence to manipulate otherwise organic market trends not only goes against the very principles of freedom that countries including the US like to preach at others, but the more immediate result is that an innocent woman is experiencing what can only be described as a hellish experience that is entirely undeserved.
The US and Canada have already lost whatever credibility they had regarding genuine human rights due to their malicious treatment of Meng Wanzhou. By prolonging this ordeal, now the entire system of global commerce is threatened and it will take steadfast leadership from China and others to make sure that open markets can prevail in such a dangerous environment.