The whiplash release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from Chinese detention hours after Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was allowed to return home could signal a new beginning in the Canada-China relationship, it says. an expert.
But those experts warn that the situation is not so simple, with many obstacles in the way of mending the fences after years of cold relations between the two countries.
“(The launch of Kovrig and Spavor) is good news and we should celebrate it as such,” said Yves Tiberghien, professor of political science at the University of British Columbia.
“There is still a long way to go, and where it becomes difficult is to address the rest of the relationship, which even after this is still a very delicate situation.”
Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor released from China after the liberation of Meng Wanzhou: Trudeau
Meng, who was arrested at the Vancouver airport in December 2018 at the request of the United States, was released from house arrest in Vancouver on Friday and returned to China the same day after obtaining an agreement to drop the United States charges in her against.
As part of the new deferred prosecution agreement, Meng has pleaded not guilty to charges of having committed fraud by misleading HSBC bank about the company’s business in Iran.
Hours after Meng left Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Kovrig and Spavor were heading home from China, where they had been detained for more than 1,000 days on alleged spying charges. His arrest came just days after Meng’s.
China has publicly maintained that there is no connection between Meng’s case and the men’s incarceration. But Beijing has also left broad indications that if allowed to go free, that could benefit the two Canadians.
Guilty plea agreement in the Meng Wanzhou case
Experts say the timing of the couple’s release on Friday has made the link to Meng’s arrest explicit, but could also signal Beijing’s desire for a fresh start with the West.
“Either they don’t care what people think, which is not good, because it shows that they don’t care about international opinion on many things, or they simply want to get relations with the United States and Canada back on track. as quickly as possible, ”said Michael Byer, who holds the Canadian Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.
“It could be a combination of those two things, but either way, (the two-man throw) is a surprise, and it’s a fantastic surprise.”
However, getting Canada’s relationship with China back on track will still require a lot of work.
Meng Wanzhou returns to China after being released by a BC court amid a deal with the US.
Canada has spoken out vigorously against Beijing’s increasingly strict control over Hong Kong, where a new national security law has cracked down on pro-democracy protests and the media. China has also exerted influence over Hong Kong’s government and electoral laws.
In February, Parliament passed a motion formally recognizing China’s treatment of its ethnic Muslim Uyghur population in Xinjiang province as genocide. The Liberal cabinet abstained from voting, and Trudeau called the term genocide a “loaded word” that should be used with care.
China has responded to Canada’s statements angrily, telling Ottawa and other Western governments to stop “interfering” in their internal affairs.
Meng’s arrest also led China to temporarily halt imports of Canadian products such as meat and canola oil, while Canada delayed a decision on a 5G network that would have been built by Huawei.
During this nearly three-year period, the conservative opposition and other critics said that Trudeau was not doing enough to defend Canada’s interests and counter China’s aggression.
Could the end of Meng’s extradition case improve China’s relations with other countries?
But Byers believes that Trudeau’s more diplomatic approach, articulated most recently during this month’s English-language election debate, where he insisted that Canada should not “launch tomatoes across the Pacific,” may have been the correct one in this case.
“He had a responsibility to the two Michaels as the leader of the country, not to anger China too much,” he said.
“We have some really big problems,” he added, including maintaining a mutual business relationship and fighting climate change. “We need to be able to engage productively with China, but at the same time, we need to be able to counter China. And it involves a lot of diplomacy. And this situation of the two Michaels has complicated it a lot. “
Tiberghien says Canada will also have no choice but to get caught up in whatever happens between China and the United States, whose relationship has also been damaged by the Meng case along with a years-long trade war.
He points to the agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia on nuclear submarines and defense technology, from which Canada was left out, as proof that China is increasingly becoming the center of attention of the Western world, despite the continued need for diplomatic and economic ties.
“Now we are faced with this moment where the United States is telling its allies that the number one priority for us is tough competition with China,” he said. “‘We see China as a systemic threat: are you with us or not?’ That’s what they are saying and we have to keep up. “
These are the key events that led to the launch of Meng Wanzhou, ‘Two Michaels’
Lynette Ong, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto and the Munk School of Global Affairs, says Kovrig and Spavor’s post could take Canada-China relations into “another phase” that will allow Canada to take a more stance. Firm on those important issues.
But he said proactive planning will be crucial to prevent a repeat of what happened to the two Canadians.
“More importantly, Canada needs a proactive strategy from China with well thought out policies on how Canada will deal with a rising belligerent power,” he wrote in an email.
“China’s rise is not a fading problem; We cannot afford to be caught again in a passive situation without a strategy in place, like when (the) two Michaels were arrested about 1,000 days ago. “
Others believe that no matter how much Canada works to improve its relationship with China or strengthen its defenses against the country, the relationship will change forever after the chaos of the past three years.
“The damage is permanent, in my opinion. It’s very difficult to repair, ”said Vincent Yang, senior associate at the Vancouver-based International Center for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy.
“It will take many decades … to restore the relationship. Basically the trust is gone. “
–With files from Mercedes Stephenson, Rachel Gilmore and David Lao of Global
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