China readies its counterattack against Canada

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/14 23:48:40

Ottawa panicked by Beijing’s pressure to release Meng

A profile of Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is displayed on a Huawei computer at a Huawei store in Beijing on Thursday. China demanded Meng's immediate release after she was arrested by Canadian authorities following an extradition request by the US. Photo: AP

Waves of strong condemnation and possible counterattacks from China on Canada's detaining of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has sparked deep anxieties from the Canadian government and society. 

Chinese Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye called Meng's detention "a premeditated political action in which the US wields its regime power to witch-hunt a Chinese high-tech company out of political consideration" in an article he wrote for the Globe and Mail on Thursday.

In the article, titled "After Huawei arrest, has Canada lost its sense of justice,"Lu said that the Canadian side detained Meng in an unreasonable way given that she has not been charged according to Canadian laws, and her arrest is clearly not judicial independence but a miscarriage of justice.

Meng was released on C$10 million ($7.5 million) bail on Tuesday, after being detained by Canadian authorities on December 1 on an extradition request from the US.

Chinese analysts said that the incident deeply and profoundly hurt Chinese people's long-establishing friendly feelings to Canada, who may react intensely if the Canadian side fails to correct its mistakes.

Moreover, Canada has clearly tied itself with the US' interests and lost its independence over sovereignty, which damaged its international image as people from other countries may have second thoughts about visiting Canada over concerns of unwarranted detention, Li Haidong, a professor at the Beijing-based China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday.

Concerned Canadians

Chinese netizens have flooded the account of the Canadian Embassy in China on China's Twitter-like Weibo since last week, criticizing Canada for losing sovereignty and becoming a puppet of the US.

"Meng's detention has indeed triggered widespread anger in Chinese society, although I have not heard about specific situations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a routine press conference on Friday in response to whether tightened security outside the Canadian Embassy in China was due to escalating anti-Canada sentiment among Chinese public.

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques who was aware of the anti-Canadian comments on Weibo, suggested Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland fly to Beijing to try to "lower the temperature" in the current dispute, Global News, a Canadian broadcaster reported on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Canadian scholars and media outlets warned that China may sour relations with Canada in various fields including trade. 

China certainly has the means to inflict pain on the relationship with Canada, Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, told CBC News on December 8.

Making inroads into China will get more difficult in terms of formal state-to-state arrangements, and high-level visits may also be impacted, at least in the short-to medium-term, he said.

According to the website of Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, China will be crucial to Canada's economic future over the next 50 years. China is, and will remain, Canada's second-largest national two-way trade partner after the US.

Canadian agri-food exports to China include canola products, pulses, pork, beef, wheat and barley, and from 2015 to 2017, China's agri-food and seafood imports from Canada increased by 28 percent.

Some Canadian agricultural exporters have already started to worry about their business.

"Everyone in the farm community is worried there might be some retaliation and the retaliation might involve canola," Neil Townsend, a senior analyst at FarmLink Marketing Solutions in Winnipeg, Manitoba, told Bloomberg on Thursday.

Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada, an industry group, told Bloomberg that "This is a situation we are watching closely as the political environment is unpredictable and could have significant negative consequences."

Many Canadian residents have been calling and asking their government to release Meng unconditionally.

Under a CBC News' post saying Chinese detentions raise fears of Canadian business chill, a netizen named Gavin Blackman tweeted on Friday that "The President of the US has implied that the extradition of Meng Wanzhou is a pawn in his trade war... Since that is all it is to him, why are we taking flack over this? Drop it and let her go."

The comment referred to Donald Trump's interview with Reuters on Tuesday in which he said he would intervene in the case if it could help close a trade deal with China.

More blows to come

Li Haidong said that China has plenty of ways to attack Canada, and China will upgrade its measures step by step in response to Canada's performance.

Chinese people could say no to all Canadian products, and it's already started with the famous Canada Goose, which has seen its shares plunge in the past days and Chinese consumers calling for a boycott against it.

The brand postponed the opening of its first flagship store in China which was originally scheduled to open in Beijing on Saturday, the South China Morning Post reported Friday.

Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, told the Global Times that China could use taxes or non-tax measures including safety or health concerns to refuse the entry of Canadian products. 

Canada's main export commodities to China in 2017 were oil seeds and miscellaneous plants, wood pulp, wood and articles of wood, automotive products, and ores, according to the Government of Canada website.

It seems that not only are Canadian down jackets facing a chilly winter, its property market has also been affected.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reported that residential home sales totaled 1,608 in the region in November 2018, which was 34.7 per cent below the 10-year November sales average and the lowest sales for the month since 2008.

The drop in sales was not immediately linked to Meng's case, but experts warned that it may become a reason for its continued drop in the future.

Another card China has is reduction in cultural exchange with Canada, experts said.

"Chinese travel agencies could cancel tour packages to Canada," Liu said.

Many Chinese people are starting to question the safety of traveling to Canada, Lu said on Thursday's press conference.

"In the long run, Chinese people will turn to other countries for overseas study out of safety concerns," Li said.

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