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The ugly messy truth about the two Michaels is that we must get past our indignation, however justified, over China's gross violations of all international norms. If we don't, they won't breathe fresh Canadian air until the 2030s, nor will any of our other citizens currently held by China.

The Xi Jinping regime will not bend or give ground until the Meng Wanzhou proceedings are terminated, whether by Canada or the United States.

We can holler until we're blue in the face, but it's time to face up to this grim reality.

For decades, successive governments around the world have wrestled with the challenges of negotiating for hostages with a host of unsavoury regimes. Leader after leader has publicly disavowed the practice, while covertly doing the opposite.

From (“I will not negotiate with terrorists”) Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama to Donald Trump, many American presidents have traded prisoners with hostile regimes. Israel gave up over a thousand Palestinian and Arab prisoners in exchange for a single Israeli soldier held by Hamas.

Even after the IRA launched an unsuccessful assassination attempt on British prime minister John Major and his cabinet in 1991, the British government maintained a back-channel of communication that ultimately led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

As recently as 2019, Donald Trump swapped an Iranian scientist in exchange for a U.S. prisoner held on espionage charges by Iran for more than three years. The scientist, Masoud Soleimani, faced far more serious charges of violating the U.S. sanctions on Iran than the allegations against Meng Wanzhou.

Barack Obama twice traded hostages during his administration. Once with the Taliban, and once with Iran.

Now that it's Joe Biden's turn to do a solid for Canada by dropping the charges against Meng to facilitate the release of Canadian prisoners, the geo-political calculations have suddenly darkened. At this juncture, it would probably be considered a favour to Biden for the Canadian government to refuse America's extradition request.

It's now a matter of life or death. The hour has come to cut a deal, writes @Garossino. #MichaelSpavor #MichaelKovrig #MengWanzhou #China

Sound confusing?

Let's start here.

What is most central to understand about the Meng case is that this is not a normal U.S. Department of Justice criminal prosecution. Meng Wanzhou is not charged as part of a broad crackdown on commercial crime, or to protect HSBC, the bank she allegedly victimized (no innocent in these affairs).

In international criminal terms, her conduct is decidedly small potatoes. But that's not why she's on the indictment at all.

Meng is charged purely for geo-political gamesmanship. She is part of an overt U.S. strategy to escalate costs to China for its rampant cyber-piracy. Specifically, China's relentless hacking, pillaging and espionage of American intellectual property and national security apparatus, including by the People's Liberation Army.

Preventing Huawei from providing broadband services or equipment in the United States became a top priority of the American government.

Recognizing America's extraordinary vulnerability to cyber-attack, the national security branch of the U.S. Department of Justice developed the tactic of charging and extraditing Chinese nationals wherever possible, and with particular focus on Huawei.

This approach, developed during the Obama administration by former U.S. assistant attorney general for national security John Carlin and laid out in his book Dawn of the Code War, was explicitly premised on a calculation of China as a rational actor that could be deterred from its state sponsorship of cyber-espionage.

There's just one problem. It failed spectacularly.

Confronted with this DOJ manoeuvre, Xi Jinping doubled down. Not only were Canadians abducted in retaliation, but China's rogue action online exploded.

Just last month, the White House issued a statement attributing the stunning spike in global ransomware attacks to China. Incredibly, the Xi Jinping government stands accused of partnering with organized crime networks in fraud, theft and extortion attacks around the world.

“Hackers with a history of working for the PRC Ministry of State Security (MSS) have engaged in ransomware attacks, cyber-enabled extortion, crypto-jacking, and rank theft from victims around the world, all for financial gain,” said the Biden government.

Even worse, China and Russia have announced a pact to work together in a bid for control of cyberspace.

It's quite apparent that the Americans are, at least for the moment, bewildered, and relations with China are at a nadir. None of their plans have moved the dial a centimetre, except to go backwards. Canadians are imprisoned, and one, Robert Schellenberg, is under a death sentence.

In meetings with senior State Department officials, China has stipulated that Meng's release is a sine qua non of any further diplomacy. Yet under existing circumstances, Biden can hardly afford to climb down on her charges.

Further, she has now been detained (albeit in a mansion, but nonetheless away from family and home) for longer than she'd be sentenced, if she could be convicted at all. And Huawei is dead in the water in Canada. It will have no position anywhere among the Five Eyes allies.

So at this point, almost three years into this gambit, the Meng prosecution is a dead letter. Her case is a burden to every country involved in this. To say nothing of the imprisoned Canadians.

It's really all about pride and political capital.

Which is why, if Justin Trudeau gets his second majority government, he would do best to follow the footsteps of many leaders before him.

It's time to cut the deal and bring the Michaels home.

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Agreed. And if we had an actual "Do not negotiate w. terrorists"s stance, why do we still buy almost all of our manufactured goods from China??? Let's bite the bullet and skyrocket our economy (and give our landfills a break) by manufacturing in Canada. Can we learn to live without the cheap gadgets from China?

Absolutely. And the planet would benefit from fewer mega ships plying its waters with dirty bunker bring so much cheap stuff to our landfills, via Amazon delivery.
There's much about the international trade routes that need to be questioned. Where was it written that the prosperity of a people depended on how much of their resources they could EXPORT???

We eat other people's food, sleep on cheap sheets that fit poorly, purchase dumb phones that don't last......let foreign temp slaves do most of our dirty...but
And in the end, like the poor people of the Philippines, we'll have nothing left to export but our children. Time to go local, big time.

Easier said than done, but a relevant goal nonetheless.

Apple's biggest factory is in China. I'm not about to give up my absolutely vital iMac or MacBook on principle any time soon. Apple was criticized severely for the poor labour standards at that factory a few years back, and that was supposedly addressed. My guess is inadequately. Microsoft-compatible PCs and laptops are also made largely in China. Every post and comment made here on the web-based NO is possible only with Chinese computer parts. Cars, transit buses, trains, electric motors, digital chips, Telus equipment, planes, steel and so much more all have too much content from China. This is way, way beyond cheap rubber ducks and well into the vital things that make our Western world go round. China planned it that way. We've been played.

It's a huge challenge to make stuff at home, especially in competitive bids where the made-in-China products and components undercut other bids. But the challenge must be made, and I think that's best accomplished incrementally. China has an ageing population and workforce, and wages are going up which affects exported prices. This will slowly work in our favour.

On the immediate agenda is the fact we have food for export, and that alone is just as, if not more important as natural resources. Canada has more than half the population of any of the largest European nations, but less than half the courage, ideals and willingness to carry its known and respected prowess at innovation through to commercialization in tangible industrial manufacturing and intangible intellectual property and knowledge. Canadian innovators succumb and sell out to the highest bidder too often. Google is filled with apps that originated as a Canadian idea.

None of this happened overnight. We all watched it, well that's not true exactly, the one in ten of us who were actually paying attention watched and worried that it wouldn't end well while the rest of us were distractedly consuming.

Buy Canadian is a great idea, but like the climate crisis individual initiatives can't fix this it's really about governance and policy.

"The Xi Jinping regime will not bend or give ground until the Meng Wanzhou proceedings are terminated, whether by Canada or the United States. We can holler until we're blue in the face, but it's time to face up to this grim reality."
Never give in to bullies! If you fight back, they go look for easier prey.
Give up on cheap gadgets and cheap clothes; buy Canadian; you'll be doing your part for climate change at the same time as sending a message to China.

I agree. We don't need cheap goods and designer knock-offs from China. We need to drastically reduce our consumption anyway. This is a good place to start. We need to trash globalization and start focusing on our local economies. If we don't do it willingly, we will be forced to do it because the conditions to support life on this planet will become so dire, there will be no other option.
When I was child in the 1960s we didn't buy gifts for Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day,Father's Day and every other day we acknowledge. Even poor people I know are drowning in cheap crap from the Dollar Store and Walmart. As I sit here in the unbearable heat with swollen sinuses from the heavy forest fire smoke AGAIN, it's getting really hard to stay optimistic.

As Lori Anderson sang years ago in her song O Superman:...."You've already paid for this'.

We have........and that old prophesy of 'fire next time' has come to show us what all of our buying and selling, gadding about and dining out on junk food have bought us.

But can addicts change as quickly as we now need to? That is the real question.

I'm all for buying Canadian. But there are no Canadian companies manufacturing cell phones. There was once a quite significant Canadian company making net infrastructure stuff; we let it die. I don't personally own a cell phone, but I'm not about to say we should stop using them rather than buy them from abroad.

And I don't see what would be better about buying them from other sources than from China. If you put together a scorecard of how nasty countries are to us and to the broader world, the nastiest by far would be the United States, not China. Come to that, if we were going to get moralistic about not buying from countries that do villainous things, we might want to look at our own conduct vis-a-vis places like Haiti, Honduras and Venezuela. If we weren't careful with our criteria we wouldn't be able to buy from ourselves either, which would be both embarrassing and leave us with rather limited options.

I agree. This pissing contest has gone too far. Send Meng Wan Zhou home to China and don't let her back into this country. Bring the two Michaels home.

I agree. This pissing contest has gone too far. Send Meng Wan Zhou home to China and don't let her back into this country. Bring the two Michaels home.

Agreed. I'm not even sure after all the fuss, exactly what it was Meng did....if part of her crimes was to violate US sanctions against Iran, it might be time for more of us to ask......'Does every country in the world have to obey USA sanctions??? Because if so......we're already in the world of Darth Vader but don't know it. We'd like to send some needed cash to relatives in Cuba...but there is no bank on the planet that dares cut us a bank draft.

How democratic is that? Makes me wonder who the real bullies are.

Here's a negotiating stance: if China returns Robert Schellenberg and the two Michaels, Canada won't confiscate all property in Canada owned by members of the Chinese Communist Party.

This is a pure ad hominem piece from the get-go: "The ugly messy truth about the two Michaels is that we must get past our indignation, however justified, over China's gross violations of all international norms." What is the justification? What if Chinese indignation is justified? What about the hyperbolic "China's gross violations of all international norms." All? And China is insulted by calling its government a "regime." A "regime" that lifted its entire population out of absolute poverty. Meanwhile the streets are filled with homeless people in Canada who dumpster dive to quell hunger. All this coming from "Canada" that came into existence through genocide? A country that hasn't followed through on its reconciliation or state-to-state sacred obligations? Where bodies of Indigenous children are still being discovered to attest to the genocide? And Canada is considering extraditing Meng to the paragon of adhering to international norms: the USA. This sounds like the kettle calling the pot black? This is a scurrilous piece of -- well it shouldn't be called journalism -- diatribe.

I like your perspective. More and more my household is wondering who the real villain is...if there is such a mastermind. We've been shocked to watch how our Liberal government shamelessly endorsed Juan Guido in Venezuela, and seemed comfortable callling the guy who won an internationally monitored election with a greater majority than T. could ever dream of, the dictator.

We've also stood by helplessly as a country that has universal medical care and education....and that deals with hurricanes so well that no one dies...........gets starved by US sanctions that they enforce internationally.

The China focus seems increasingly like a red herring.......diverting our attention from worse hot Yemen, Palestine, Iran, Brazil....where regime change is the name of the game. Mainstream media, even our CBC, mostly ignores conflicts in which Americans have their fingers.......but oh my goodness, is the biggest American rival a bad bunch.

We''re no believers in political purity. We just read widely.....and Meng seems like a diversion right now.

Did you hear the man who revealled American war crimes in Iraq years ago, just lost his case and may be deported to America to face charges??? Even though Assange isn't an American citizen, the revenge patrol will never forgive him for those photos of civilians being gunned down in Iraq.
Is Canada outraged??? Not at all. American vengeance goes on beneath the radar.

We may already be living in a global gulag....but it isn't China that scares me at present....its the big holes in our western consciousness...conscience.

My comment 2 days ago on this story - The Chinese government needs to understand that it cannot arbitrarily pass sentence on other nationals, no matter their crime. We must actively support a boycott of Chinese goods. Please research the sources of all commodities you purchase and decide whether you truly need them if the only source is a totalitarian state thousands of kilometers away.

But we don't need to understand that? Just them? Pretty blatant double standard. I'm all for them understanding that, but if so we should too. And I mean, we can claim we're not being arbitrary with Meng, but let's face it--we're lying. They claim the same--they say they totally just arrested those guys because they were spies. They're lying too (it's possible those guys WERE spies, but even if they were, that's not why they arrested them). We're just less tolerant of their lies than our own.

Almost everything you touch has Chinese components. Yes, let's declutter our lives. But know that Chinese elements have saturated into our vital machinery, electronics, steel, medicines and so on.

The more important question is: What elements do we produce that China deems vital? Food and natural resources would obviously be at the top of the list. I'd add knowledge, from biomedical products to code. I suggest this is the better starting point in reducing China's influence in our lives in future, most especially belligerence.

An excellent, focused and well-argued piece, except for the reference to Trudeau geting his second majority government -- he doesn't need a majority to do what you outline. God spare us of a majority Liberal government. On this issue (where cooperation is quite likely) and any other the Libs must learn to act like a minority government should: involve the other parties and earn their support through compromise. It makes for better policy.

Decoupling from China should be seen in the context of a long term plan to recouple with the Canadian economy from the producer's perspective, not just the consumer. Anything less is reactionary.

It's hard to see any politician north of the 49th parallel standing up to any superpower that has provided the economic coattails to ride on, whether historically with the US, or increasingly with China. But a wise politico would start with our strengths and build them up in stages with policy, joint projects, outright subsidies and so forth, and make or grow stuff that the world can't do without or copy / steal easily. One example is regenerative agriculture coupled with solar farms and deep water conservation measures to ramp up Canada's production of essential food and zero emission energy for export (after our domestic needs are met) as the US southwest burns up and goes under with water mismanagement, and China pays the environmental and hostile diplomacy piper.

These are the kind of ideas that require serious forethought before trading hostages, an idea presented here clearly in the absence of a fallback position when either of the superpowers becomes pissed off with Canada's actions.

My preference is to let the courts determine the merits of the extradition case. Being afraid of the results means that the BC courts are thought of as untrustworthy in the eyes of the fearful. Arbitrarily releasing Ms. Meng and negotiating the release of the two Michaels will anger the US, but only if the case had legal merit to begin with. Nonetheless, the US -- clearly still our most important ally and trading partner -- will take Canada down several notches in esteem with respect to due process and international treaties.

Moreover, China will have to be willing to negotiate. Counting on that is a huge risk, but it is possible, especially if Canada is converted in the eyes of the Chinese from a "hostile" nation that uses international law as a weapon to a useful pawn, to be suddenly treated with respect and 'friendship' to counter US hegemony. Canada must be aware and ready to act independently and wisely and in the interests of our allies as these and other scenarios potentially evolve.

If the court decides there is little merit with the case, then the US has no justification to take it out on Canada. If the court decides there is merit and Ms. Meng is sent south, then China may well harm the Michaels further or retaliate by capturing more innocent Canadians. But it also will also be forced to redirect its anger toward the much larger US and its ring of allies and risk Canada shutting off vital food and raw resource exports to China -- if the politicos get up the courage.

Acting irrationally is not a plan. The court is the only rational way forward.

It has taken over two and a half years to get this far, and more years to come with appeals expected. This is far too long for justice for Meng; she should be allowed to go free with a promise to attend court here when requested.

Appeal presumes she is found guilty based on the merits of the extradition treaty details. If the US case is found lacking, then she will be released and will likely jump on a private plane outta here within a few hours.

Dropping the case before the trial has been completed is up to the US, not Canada, unless Canada wants to act just like China and politicize the law.

There is precious little rationality in our current system. Yes release Mung and bring the Michaels home. The leadership of our world is an infantile worship of power for power's sake. It is broken and bankrupt morally. Life has no worth - it lives and dies but power is a fantasy that will only die when we wake up. Loving kindness has more currency in worth.

I agree and am actually more chagrined with our legal system. In particular what I would like to know is why it has to take years to get to the point we are at now. After he hearing the judge who has a background in corporate crime express concerns at this stage I was ready to pull my hair out. Clearly the Americans are doing squat to help us so time to free meng.
This notwithstanding I strongly believe we need to develop a coherent foreign policy in concert with our allies I.e Australia with respect to China
That and as a bare minimum we should lead a campaign to boycott the olympics since they are so image conscious