China’s response to COVID-19 cover-ups should be to speak softly and carry a big wallet.

China has been accused of covering up the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for months, giving the virus time to spread globally.

Lu Shaye. Image: National Post

China’s response has been to come out swinging, angrily reacting in a manner not fitting a superpower. While irrational outbursts have been characteristic of the leader that other superpower, China should take the higher rhetorical ground.

China has lashed out at a number of countries critical of its handling of the crisis, including Australia. After Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent review of the spread of the virus, China’s ambassador to Australia questioned whether a country that is so “hostile” to China is the best place to send Chinese students for education, or whether Chinese consumers would want to buy Australian wine and beef, (Globe and Mail, May 1, 2020).

Canada has felt similar peevishness from China after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies after the U.S. had requested her extradition. The shrill tone of China’s ambassador in Canada was followed by the blockage of our exports of pork and canola to China. Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to Canada was decidedly undiplomatic last May in Toronto when he harangued Canadians and said that we have a “psychological imbalance towards China’s economic and technological development” caused by “West-egotism.”

Lu Shaye is now spouting familiar rhetoric in France. He has released a series of attacks on the “malevolence” of the French media, calling them lapdogs of the U.S.: suggesting that Le Figaro was trafficking in “lies,” and “Some Westerners are starting to have no confidence in liberal democracy,” with one of his favourite themes that the French were “psychologically fragile.”

It’s all so unnecessary. To call us psychologically imbalanced is an obvious insult.  There is no need to mimic Trump’s childish outbursts to demonstrate your status as a superpower.

The mature reaction of a superpower to accusations is to calmly carry on with global dominance and be diplomatic in areas of dispute.

China’s global influence needs no psychoanalysis of critics. That rising superpower is spreading its influence globally with the Belt and Road Initiative with projected spending on infrastructure of $1 trillion in 71 countries. The initiative involves one-half the world’s population and one-quarter the global GDP.

Sure, China’s worry is that its soft power being eroded by accusations of a cover-up. But that will pass, especially if China can clean up the breeding grounds of pandemics, the disgusting “wet markets” of slaughtered wild and domestic animals.

The U.S. superpower’s foreign policy hasn’t always been characterized by a whiney leader. Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy in 1900 was: “speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” The components of the policy were the possession of a strong military, never to bluff, and to strike only when prepared to strike hard.

China’s foreign policy should be “speak softly and carry a big wallet.” China has chosen to dominate the world through the investment in infrastructure.  That policy will deliver the resources needed to keep their industrial machine rolling out the world’s goods in a peaceful, albeit colonial, way.

China should resist the inclination to feel grieved at perceived historical humiliations over the past century. Lashing out is unbecoming of a rising superpower.

 

Some uncomfortable truths emerge in the U.S.-China power struggle

In his open letter to Canadians, I thought China’s ambassador to Canada was being obtuse by wilfully ignoring Canada’s legal obligations. Now I realize that legalities are not a concern of China’s.

image: China Daily

Under our extradition treaty with the U.S., Canada had an obligation to arrest the CFO of Hauwei Technologies, Wanzhou Meng, because the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that her company violating American trade sanctions on Iran.

Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye says that we should worry about our independence:

”While Canada has continued to stress its judicial independence, did it insist on that independence when facing the United State’s unreasonable request (Globe and Mail, December 13, 2018)?”

He doesn’t seem to understand the rule of law. International extradition treaties are not about independence, they are about legal obligations.

On re-reading the ambassador’s letter, I realize that I have been naive. While Mr. Shaye overlooks what’s inconvenient to his argument (who hasn’t done that on occasion?), he grasps the raw politics involved. Ambassador Shaye continues:

“The detention of Ms. Meng is not a mere judicial case, but a premeditated political action in which the United States wields its regime power to witch-hunt a Chinese high-tech company out of political consideration.”

The use of the term “witch-hunt” in reference to Ms. Meng is unfortunate but his characterization of the politics is spot-on. U.S. President Trump admitted as much in an interview with Reuters. In reference to using Ms. Meng as a bargaining chip in his trade deal with China, he said:

“If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

President Trump has just handed Ms. Meng a gift. Her lawyers will convincingly argue that the motives of the U.S. are political, not legal. Prof. Rob Currie of Dalhousie University, an expert in extradition law, agrees. “Oh yes,” he said, “He [Trump] has given her arguments, for sure (Globe and Mail, December 12, 2018).”

Trump wants to destroy Hauwei because it threatens U.S. global dominance. Canada does not extradite anyone when the motivations are political.

Now I realize that the failure of the Chinese ambassador to mention the legality of extradition is more than an oversight. It demonstrates that China is a lawless country. China has demonstrated that uncomfortable fact by the arbitrary and unwarranted arrest of Canadians Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor.

It’s uncomfortable because it demonstrates that China would not hesitate to violate any trade agreement it had with Canada that it found inconvenient.

It’s uncomfortable, as well, to awaken to the reality that our neighbour and largest trading partner is no longer our friend; whose president would use us as a bargaining chip as well.

It’s entirely possible that Trump ordered the arrest Ms. Meng to punish Canada for our failure to prohibit Huawei from entering Canada’s construction of our new 5G network.

It’s not beyond Trump’s machinations to betray anyone on a whim -as his widening circle of former advisors and friends would surely attest.