Canada’s arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is a stinging rebuke of Xi Jinping’s Chinese government. It exposes China’s economic malfeasance and undercuts Xi’s global economic agenda.
While it’s not clear why Meng has been detained, we do know that it is on request of U.S. federal authorities in New York. Suspicion has therefore risen that Meng might be accused of circumventing U.S. sanctions on Iran or North Korea. We’ll get more information next week. Regardless, by challenging China’s version of Apple Inc. in such an overt manner, the U.S. government is sending a clear signal to Beijing that it will no longer tolerate China’s global economic misconduct.
The U.S. is motivated by two underlying challenges here. First, the fact that companies like Huawei would lack their economic power without the support of China’s industrial-scale intellectual property theft. Led by China’s intelligence services, these efforts pose a long term challenge to American prosperity.
Then there’s Huawei’s role in essentially operating as a front company for Chinese intelligence. While Huawei absurdly claims that it is a private sector entity that exists simply to sell goods and services and make profits, the reality is far different. In fact, Huawei serves Xi’s economic strategy of market domination and competitor displacement, and operates as a front for espionage. There is a reason that top U.S. allies have heavily restricted Huawei from tendering on major telecommunication contracts. They want to prevent China from establishing massive signal intelligence infrastructure on their soil.
To be sure, China sees things differently. Its foreign ministry says that Meng’s “detention without giving any reason violates a person’s human rights. We have made solemn representations to Canada and the U.S., demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person’s legal rights.”
I say, too bad.
Meng will be subject to the fair and accountable processes of Canadian and U.S. law. And in that, she is far luckier than many of her fellow citizens back home. But ultimately this is good news. It’s long past time that Chinese feudal aggression met some pushback.