Fear and anger from diplomats, academics, and even Canadians

Access Archive

Dear Access members:

Today’s essential news in less than a minute:

  • The United States has informed the Canadian government that it plans to proceed with a formal request to extradite Huawei chief financial officer Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 on allegations of banking fraud and breaking sanctions on Iran. China is not happy.

  • More than 100 senior former diplomats and leading scholars have signed an open letter calling for the release of the Canadians detained in retaliation to Meng’s arrest. China-watchers are starting to worry about visiting China.

  • Equal parental leave for men and women? Shanghai Women’s Federation (SWF) is hoping to introduce a shared parental leave policy for both men and women in an attempt to encourage equal sharing of childcare among new parents. Naturally, parts of the internet are upset that women and men may be treated the same.

For more stories, and details on the above, read on!

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. Canadian anger, and a formal extradition request

The Globe and Mail reports (paywall) that the “United States has informed the Canadian government that it plans to proceed with a formal request to extradite Huawei chief financial officer Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 on allegations of banking fraud related to violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.”

  • Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, told the Globe and Mail yesterday that “he has voiced Canadian anger and resentment to the Trump administration about the dispute that resulted from the arrest of Ms. Meng.”

  • While the Americans “are the ones seeking to have the full force of American law brought against” Meng, MacNaughton said, it is Canada that is “paying the price. Our citizens are.”

  • Canadians Michael Kovrig, a diplomat on leave, and social entrepreneur Michael Spavor are still in detention on trumped-up charges of “endangering national security.”

  • A death sentence was given to a third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, last week for drug trafficking, after a court previously sentenced him to 15 years behind bars. Foreign journalists were invited to attend the resentencing hearing, making the message to Canada crystal clear.

  • Beijing is engaged in “cruel and inhuman treatment.” This is how some Canadian politicians responded to the briefing by Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, about the conditions in which Kovrig and Spavor are being kept: lights on 24/7, interrogations, limited consular access, no legal counsel, etc.

  • Meanwhile, Meng is out on bail to the tune of $7.4 million and is living in one of her mansions with access to her lawyers. Meng “has surrendered her passport and must wear a GPS monitor but is otherwise free to move around the city outside an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.”

The deadline for the U.S. to file its extradition request is January 30. The Canadian Department of Justice then has 30 days to determine whether an “authority to proceed” will be issued: If the United States’ request complies with the requirements of the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty, Canada cannot refuse.

Fear and loathing in the China-watching community

Also published in the Globe and Mail and elsewhere: Mr. Xi, release these two Canadian citizens. It’s an open letter to China’s leader, Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, calling for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, signed by more than 100 senior former diplomats, China scholars, and others involved in political, cultural, and business exchanges with China.

Many of the signatories are at the top of their fields. They are mostly from the Anglosphere and European countries. They say that they “share Mr. Kovrig’s and Mr. Spavor’s enthusiasm for building genuine, productive and lasting relationships” between China and the rest of the world, however:

We…must now be more cautious about traveling and working in China and engaging our Chinese counterparts. That will lead to less dialogue and greater distrust, and undermine efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground. Both China and the rest of the world will be worse off as a result.

“More cautious” is perhaps an understatement of the current mood among many, at least in my own circle of China scholars, journalists, and businesspeople. The plural of anecdote is not data, of course, but I personally know a non-trivial subset enough of the people who play a major role in academic, business, and other exchanges between China and the rest of the world. Quite a number have been interviewed on the Sinica Podcast, or featured on SupChina.com and in this newsletter. Several have canceled planned trips to China. Many are starting to wonder if they should visit the People’s Republic in 2019.

It’s one thing for such people to sign petitions about the treatment of Uyghurs or another human rights issue. But when these people start to fear for their own personal safety, it is a sign that Beijing’s tactics may backfire in a spectacular way. If many of the people who have helped ease China’s relations with the West give up entirely on even going there themselves, Xi Jinping may have a problem.

See also: Swedish reporter Jojje Olsson on how “the new and aggressive tactics of the Chinese Embassy have backfired in Sweden.”

Further reporting on Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, and the detained Canadians:

—Jeremy Goldkorn

2. Shanghai: Shared parental leave on the horizon?

The Shanghai Women’s Federation (SWF) is hoping to introduce a shared parental leave policy for both men and women in an attempt to encourage equal sharing of childcare among new parents.

In a press conference that took place recently, the organization announced that a proposal (in Chinese) regarding the policy is set to be submitted to local lawmakers during this year’s Two Sessions in March. According to the scheme suggested by SWF, in addition to 98 days of maternity leave it recommended to be reserved for women, new parents can divvy up another 40 days of parental leave however they see fit.

Under current regulations, women in Shanghai are entitled to 128 days of paid maternity leave. Men can only take up to 10 days of paid leave when they have new babies at home. But according to SWF, very few fathers in the city use the benefit, and many of them do not know such policies exist.

“If we agree that children are of both mothers and fathers, we need to recognize that the responsibilities of childcare should be shared among two genders as well,” the organization said in the proposal. “The onus cannot be placed entirely on women.”

Of course, the proposal stirred up a controversy on the Chinese internet, with some male commentators complaining that the introduction of shared parental leave would potentially result in job discrimination against men. To some women, the opposition to the proposal served as a bleak reminder of how widespread sexism is in Chinese society, and how entitled Chinese men feel to their privileges in the workplace.

For details on this story, please click through to SupChina.

—Jiayun Feng

3. Trade war, day 201: U.S. cancels lower-level trade talks ahead of Liu He visit

Next week, on January 30-31, vice premier Liú Hè 刘鹤 will visit Washington, D.C. for high-level trade talks. His delegation was supposed to be preceded this week by a preparatory visit of two mid-level officials: Wáng Shòuwén 王受文, vice-minister of commerce, and Liào Mín 廖岷, vice-minister of finance.

  • That visit was canceled, the Financial Times reports (paywall), by the Trump administration in a show of displeasure over “a lack of progress on ‘forced’ technology transfers and potentially far-reaching ‘structural’ reforms to China’s economy.”

  • The FT says that structural issues “could ultimately derail the talks,” and they certainly could, but this cancellation also doesn’t necessarily change the trajectory towards Trump accepting whatever deal comes to him after Liu He and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer hash it out.

  • See last Friday’s Access email for more on the current trend away from further tariffs raises, and towards a (rather unambitious) deal for U.S.-China economic relations.

  • The New York Times adds (porous paywall): “Trump administration officials have been debating whether they can push more tariffs on China without facing significant repercussions. China’s economy is already slowing, in part because of the tariffs, and any further weakening could hurt global economic growth and the United States economy, which is itself showing signs of cooling.”

  • Also: “it is unclear whether China will pressure the Trump administration to drop its efforts to extradite” Meng Wanzhou, a scenario which could be just as likely to derail trade talks as Trump changing his mind on structural economic issues.

Other trade-war-related links for today, starting with two charts about China’s economic slowdown tweeted out by FT reporter Tom Hancock:

—Lucas Niewenhuis

4. The internet, black swans, and gray rhinos — dangers to the Party’s rule

General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 “has warned officials to be vigilant against any threats to the Party’s ‘political security,’ underlining uncertainty in Beijing as the economy falters,” writes Lily Kuo in the Guardian.

Xi spoke at a study session for senior provincial leaders and ministers on Monday, the same day official economic data showed the Chinese economy last year grew at its weakest pace in almost 30 years… Yet Xi’s remarks focused more on the ‘political’ and ‘ideological security’ as the country’s main priorities going forward. He stressed the campaign would be focused on training the next generation to uphold ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics…

…“Now the main front of the ideological struggle is on the internet, and the main audience of the internet is young people. Many domestic and foreign forces are trying to develop supporters of their values and even to cultivate opponents of the government,” Xi said.

Xi is also worried about the economy, warning that in a turbulent international situation, “We must be highly vigilant against ‘black swan’ and ‘gray rhinoceros’ incidents.” (The Chinese terms are 黑天鹅 hēi tiān’é 灰犀牛 huī xīniú — see this Xinhua story for more in Xi’s original Chinese.)

This is very similar language to the People’s Daily editorial of July 2017 that popularized the term “gray rhino.” So Xi’s subsequent assurances that, per the Guardian, “the government would dissolve zombie companies, those with too much debt, give support to businesses to stabilise jobs, and shore up a weakening property market,” should be measured against similar promises made in 2017.

5. Further intimidation of young communists and labor activists

“At least five Chinese activists have been arrested by police for allegedly “disturbing public order” in what appears to be a coordinated crackdown on labour activism,” reports the South China Morning Post.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports (porous paywall) that the authorities are using taped confessions to intimidate young communists.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at jeremy@supchina.com.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief






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