The arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in December for possible extradition to the United States has triggered a diplomatic crisis between Canada and China, most recently leading to the “forced departure” - he was fired - of Canadian ambassador John McCallum.
This situation has been a cold dash of reality for the Trudeau government and for Canadians in general who have watched - perhaps naively - the emergence of the Chinese economic juggernaut and witnessed the careful polishing of China’s image on the world stage. Now those illusions have been shattered
In an obvious act of retaliation, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor languish in Chinese jails, not knowing how long they will be there. They are, in essence, being held hostage by a repressive, totalitarian government that demands that Canada abandon a treaty with the United States and that the Canadian government interfere with the court system on behalf of Meng Wanzhou.
If China thinks that is going to happen, the Chinese government profoundly misunderstands Canada and our values. The rule of law prevails in this country and there is no way the federal government has the power – or the inclination - to order a judge in B.C. to immediately release anyone, including Meng Wanzhou.
China has even accused Canada of “white supremacy,” quite a charge to level against a country that was open to China long before many other Western nations. If China retained any illusions about Canada, they too must be shattered by now.
Reality bites. Truth hurts. Both countries have a clearer view of each other now and their “incompatible values” (journalist Jonathan Manthorpe’s words). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trade with Chinese or that we should bar Chinese tourists from B.C.
But if we are wise, we have learned a lesson about how China bullies and threatens other countries, even as its actions damage its own reputation among nations who may wonder if they’re next.