Meng and the Michaels Return Home

Deferred prosecution agreement ends it all . . . 

On Friday the Canadian government announced that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, held in China since December 2018, were headed home to Canada. The announcement came moments after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou boarded a flight from Vancouver bound for China. After nearly three years fighting an extradition request from the U.S. Justice Department, Meng agreed Friday to a deferred prosecution agreement. She admitted wrongdoing in helping Huawei conceal direct dealings with Iran, a violation of U.S. sanctions, but without pleading guilty to the charges against her. In exchange, the Justice Department withdrew its extradition request and will drop the charges when the deferral period ends on Dec. 1, 2022.

A win-win-win resolution . . .

All three countries involved – Canada, the U.S., and China – denied that the release of the two Michaels was linked to the agreement with Meng, insisting the cases were different, and the decisions were made independently. Although Beijing always publicly maintained the two Canadians had been arrested on national security grounds, it did not adhere to that narrative by releasing them at the same time the U.S. agreed to drop the charges against Meng. Over the weekend, China also allowed two Chinese American siblings who had been prevented from leaving the country since 2018 to return to the U.S. Their father, Liu Changming, is a former senior executive at a Chinese state-owned bank and is wanted in China on fraud charges.

What next?

While resolution of the Meng case removes a major irritant between the U.S. and China and may lay the groundwork for collaboration on issues of mutual interest, a reset of the relationship remains elusive. The same is expected of the Canada-China relationship. After trading barbs with a Chinese envoy at the UN General Assembly on Monday, Canadian Minister Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau explained that Canada will "coexist" and "co-operate" with China, when possible, while "competing" and "challenging" it when necessary. Whether or not this approach yield results, it aligns with Canadian public opinion: While Canadians now distrust China, they acknowledge its economic importance and the necessity to collaborate on certain global issues.