Monday, January 28, 2019

Envoy’s Firing Shows Sensitivity of Huawei Row
By Ling Shengli
Global Times
2019/1/28 17:03:39

Simmering tensions from the case of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei, are giving China-Canada relations a difficult time. Ottawa is caught in a dilemma between Beijing and Washington. Since the Meng case involves issues beyond the ambit of the judiciary, it has garnered wide attention. The mounting pressure has apparently upset the Canadian government, and led to the Canadian ambassador to China, John McCallum, being forced to step down.

McCallum told Chinese-language media in Canada last week that Meng had a strong case to challenge an US extradition order. "I think she has quite good arguments on her side… One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case. Two, there's an extraterritorial aspect to her case, and three, there's the issue of Iran sanctions which are involved in her case, and Canada does not sign on to these Iran sanctions," he said.

For the Canadian government, the Meng case is a hot potato. Both McCallum and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau know well that with political factors involved, it's not a purely judicial case. But the comments of McCallum, as a subordinate, are not in line with the public remarks of Prime Minister Trudeau.

McCallum, to some extent, put Canada's cards on the table prematurely, leaving the government in an awkward position and leading to increasing domestic political pressure. As a result, Trudeau had to ask for McCallum's resignation.

Although McCallum was punished due to what he said and criticized for being "pro-China," his remarks hold water and have gained wide recognition in both countries. As McCallum said, due to the involvement of political factors, the Canadian court can refuse the American extradition request. However, this may lead to US retaliation, which Canada is wary of. Therefore, Ottawa is not willing to offend the US, but expects Washington to drop the extradition request. Besides, the US extradition request is seriously flawed. As Canada did not sign on to the Iran sanctions that Washington wants her extradited for, it has a good reason to detach itself from the extradition issue.

Responding to McCallum's remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying urged Canada to "make the right choice instead of risking endangering itself for other's gains."

As a matter of fact, if McCallum could stay on his position, he may help reduce the damage that Meng's case would bring to bilateral relations.

Despite McCallum's remarks being pragmatic, they were considered inappropriate by the Trudeau government at the moment. The Canadian government doesn't want to prematurely expose its cards. Considering Canada's awkward position sandwiched between China and the US, Canada still wants to wait and see if any change occurs. For Trudeau, asking the envoy to quit may have been against his will but he had no other choice left as the step would help him ward off internal and external political pressure.

Cooperation between China and Canada had been deepening in the past few years and bilateral economic and trade ties harbor vast potential. When Trudeau visited China in 2018, the two countries signed a slew of agreements. However, due to the Meng case, China-Canada relations went downhill, which is obviously not in the interest of Canada. Expelling McCallum doesn't mean that the Canadian government can find a better solution to get out of the dilemma of Meng case. If the Trudeau government wants good relations with China, it should take active and constructive steps.

The author is secretary-general of the International Security Study Center at China Foreign Affairs University.

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