It’s Donald Trump’s fault. Somehow, all sorts of things these days can be traced back to the U.S. president — Canada’s recent troubles with China included.
China had detained two Canadians and sentenced another to death after a high-profile executive of the Asian country’s Huawei Technologies was arrested in Vancouver in December. Observers have called the moves retaliation.
The United States should bear some responsibility, and not just because Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou, daughter of its founder, was arrested due to an American extradition request.
China’s retaliation is part of a broader pattern of increasingly aggressive behaviour on the world stage. It has the gall to do so only because of the United States’ shrinking international footprint.
Not everyone liked it when Team America played world police the last decades. But we all benefited in a way that is increasingly apparent: the United States had provided a counterweight to the rising China.
China hasn’t always acted the way it does, aggressively pressing territorial claims in the South China Sea and Taiwan, riding roughshod over Hong Kong’s freedoms and carving Africa like a cake. If we recall the 2001 U.S.-China spy-plane confrontation, that got resolved so civilly that internally, the Chinese government was accused of weakness.
China’s boldness comes not just from the United States’ tangible retreats: its pulling out of Syria, Afghanistan and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. When Trump courts dictators, spurns allies and derides globalization, when everything he does gets leaked to media and senior officials constantly leave, China sees weakness to be exploited.
To be sure, the rise of China’s hardline President Xi Jinping predates Trump, and the country has not retaliated directly against the United States, which seeks Meng for her alleged role in violating Iran sanctions, which she denies.
But in the United States’ retreat and chaotic administration, China clearly saw a void it can fill and the mandate to ride unchecked. Lashing out at Canada was not just retaliation, it was a message to the world.
It is telling when China’s foreign affairs spokeswoman said last week, Canada’s “so-called allies could be counted on 10 fingers.”
The best lies have bits of truth. Few stand with Canada publicly. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the rounds lobbying world leaders, readouts from many conversations show they only “discussed” China’s retaliation, with few countries saying anything definitive.
Countries, including the United States, did stand up, but some only barely. Australian’s acting foreign minister said his country was “deeply concerned.” China doesn’t care about the world’s stern statements. But that wasn’t even stern.
Speaking up was easy, and words had value, only when big brother U.S.A. roamed the world with its big stick.
Now, on top of everything, the United States can’t even keep its government open. It is closed over budgetary disputes and can’t pay its coast guard. The White House has no cooks and has to order fast food.
China’s bold because the lone country willing and capable of challenging it can’t buy anything more than a hamburger.