BIG TROU­BLE WITH CHINA

Winnipeg Sun - - NEWS - AN­THONY FUREY

It’s safe to say that there will be ram­i­fi­ca­tions af­ter Canada ar­rested the CFO of Huawei tech­nolo­gies last week­end at the be­hest of the United States. And they will be felt both here in Canada and around the world.

Just what those will be, what form they will take, and what the next step is in this de­vel­op­ing story is what ev­ery­one’s ask­ing.

China is not at all happy that Meng Wanzhou was de­tained by our au­thor­i­ties at the Van­cou­ver air­port. They want her sent back to China in­stead of trans­ferred to the United States and are even ac­cus­ing Canada of vi­o­lat­ing Meng’s hu­man rights.

“De­tain­ing a per­son with­out pro­vid­ing an ex­pla­na­tion has un­doubt­edly vi­o­lated her hu­man rights,” said Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang.

While her court ap­pear­ance Wed­nes­day in Bri­tish Columbia is un­der a pub­li­ca­tion ban (at Meng’s re­quest), it’s been re­ported that the U.S. wants her in re­la­tion to sus­pected vi­o­la­tions of the sanc­tions on Iran. That may be. But that’s not their only prob­lem with Huawei, one of the world’s largest tech com­pa­nies and phone man­u­fac­tur­ers.

It’s hard to un­der­state the sig­nif­i­cance of this news, which sent tech stops drop­ping upon its an­nounce­ment.

Meng Wanzhou isn’t just a top-rank­ing em­ployee of Huawei. She’s the daugh­ter of bil­lion­aire founder Ren Zhengfei, who served in China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army as an in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ist.

It’s the com­pany’s per­ceived close con­nec­tion to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party that has seen Canada’s Five Eyes in­tel­li­gence shar­ing part­ners ban the com­pany from par­tic­i­pat­ing in their de­vel­op­ing 5G net­works, some­thing Canada has been urged to do as well.

Ad­vances in 5G com­mu­ni­ca­tions go hand-in-hand with what’s called the in­ter­net of things, where ev­ery­day elec­tron­ics through­out our homes, busi­nesses and even gov­ern­ment are on­line and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other. There is se­ri­ous con­cern that if a com­pany like Huawei is in­volved in its im­ple­men­ta­tion, then the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment will have a lit­eral win­dow into our daily lives, se­crets, in­no­va­tions and more.

If Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau knew about the ar­rest in ad­vance, which he al­most cer­tainly did, it’s huge news that sug­gests he’s at least some­what on board with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s plans to chal­lenge China’s push for greater global dom­i­nance.

The prob­lems go be­yond pri­vacy and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty theft though. There are the hu­man rights abuses. There’s China’s at­tempts to ab­sorb Tai­wan and mil­i­ta­rize the small is­lands in the South China Sea. There are the con­cerns with the Belt Road Ini­tia­tive, where they’re at­tempt­ing to realign the economies of Europe and Africa to be more in­debted to China and un­der Bei­jing’s sway. Then there is the fact they don’t play fair in trade, the root of Trump’s long-stand­ing griev­ance with the Mid­dle King­dom.

There will be a num­ber of con­se­quences to this for Canada. For starters, it’s now go­ing to be near im­pos­si­ble to not join our Five Eyes part­ners in block­ing Huawei from 5G. It also means the gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with scor­ing some form of a trade deal with China now faces a ma­jor hur­dle.

That said, the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is not wholly naive to the chal­lenges posed by China. A prime ex­am­ple is Trudeau’s re­cent de­ci­sion to block a Chi­nese state-owned en­ter­prise from buy­ing con­struc­tion giant Ae­con.

Re­tal­i­a­tion is the big worry though. There’s al­ways been a risk that North Amer­i­can busi­ness lead­ers will be ar­bi­trar­ily de­tained in China, Gor­don G. Chang, au­thor of The Com­ing Col­lapse of China, told me Thurs­day on my Sir­iusxm ra­dio show. But now that risk has greatly in­creased. If that hap­pens, we’ll have a sit­u­a­tion re­sem­bling the hostage ex­changes with the Sovi­ets dur­ing the Cold War.

The list of con­cerns with China is im­mense and at first glance this big pic­ture doesn’t have all that much to do with the ar­rest of a busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive at the Van­cou­ver air­port. But the in­ci­dent could be a ver­sion of “the shot heard around the world”, as se­cu­rity ex­pert Tom Quig­gin de­scribed it to me.

A small spark, yes. But one that starts a much big­ger fire.

Huawei’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Meng Wanzhou was ar­rested in a case that adds to tech­nol­ogy ten­sions with Wash­ing­ton.

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