Arrest of Huawei executive puts Vancouver at centre of growing tensions between China and United States

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      This morning, the chief financial officer of a high-flying Chinese tech company is scheduled to appear at a bail hearing in Vancouver.

      Meng Wanzhou was arrested last weekend at Vancouver International Airport because the U.S. government wants her extradited.

      The Huawei Technologies Co. executive and deputy chair is believed to be accused of violating U.S. sanctions on the sale of goods to Iran, though she's obtained a publication ban.

      The Chinese government has vehemently protested the arrest, which has captured attention around the world.

      Huawei has been banned from participating in the development of 5G wireless networks in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, but so far, this hasn't occurred in Canada.

      Donald Trump's former senior strategist, Steve Bannon (right), has said that a U.S.-China war is inevitable.

      How bad could things get between U.S. and China?

      Where are things going in the U.S.-China relationship?

      U.S. president Donald Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has said in the past that there's "no doubt" that America and China will fight a war within the next decade.

      Meanwhile, the Nation published a story in 2017 about Bannon's earlier career as a documentary filmmaker, paying particular attention to his 2010 Generation Zero. In it, Bannon highlighted the views of authors Neil Howe and William Strauss, who make the case that every 80 years America reaches a "cataclysmic crisis" lasting a decade or more.

      They were, in order, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Second World War. For Bannon, who reportedly subscribes to this theory of history, we're due for another monumental event.

      It's an open question whether Trump, a noted conspiracy theorist, also sees war with China as an inevitability.

      In the recent U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, the Trump administration insisted that the other parties not sign trade deals with any other countries without its permission.

      That provides the U.S. with a veto over any deal that Canada or Mexico might want to reach with China.

      Trump's decision to launch a trade war with China, notwithstanding a recent truce, seems designed to ruin the Chinese economy. That, in turn, will result in more protests within China, which will create headaches for China's rulers.

      Part of the motivation for undermining China's economy is its Made in China 2025 plan. It's designed to catapult the country's manufacturing centre ahead of everyone else's.

      There are 10 "priority sectors", including new advanced information technology, automated machine tools and robotics, and aerospace and aeronautical equipment—three areas where America reigns supreme.

      These were the results of a 2017 Abacus Data poll of Canadians.

      Canada caught between two major powers

      So what does all this mean for Canada?

      In 2017, an Abacas Data poll indicated that only 10 percent of Canadians would want to join the U.S. in any military conflict with China. 

      Another 34 percent favoured remaining neutral and 39 percent stated that Canada should express its opposition.

      Also last year, another Abacus Data poll found that 61 percent of respondents believed that China was doing more than the United States "to try to maintain peace and avoid conflict".

      But there have been extensive efforts to demonize China in the Canadian media, which could put a dent in those polling numbers in the future. There seems to be no shortage of writers who will be retained by Postmedia, in particular, to ramp up fears about the motivations of Chinese president Xi Jinping.

      Meanwhile, unnamed officials in policing and security agencies are leaking information to Global News about money laundering in Vancouver real estate by unnamed Chinese organized criminals.

      Headlines about the Big Circle Boys—a Chinese gang that attracted attention in Vancouver during the late 1980s and early 1990s—are back in the Canadian media.

      There is a dizzying number of anonymous Twitter accounts that highlight Chinese money laundering. These anonymous accounts bully journalists, academics, and politicians who say positive things about Chinese immigrants coming to Canada or who question the narrative around "foreign money".

      The term "foreign money" is routinely used as shorthand to describe the impact of Chinese buying of real estate. But if you probe into the definition of foreign money used by some academics, it actually includes funds that immigrants from all countries bring to Canada after cashing out in their own country. It's money that's earned abroad.

      So if a person born in the Philippines or the U.K. or America sells their home before moving to Canada and then buys a condo here—and pays taxes here—that's "foreign money", even if this person has become a Canadian citizen. But this distinction almost never appears in the multitude of articles whipping up more mistrust of China.

      A great deal of media coverage is also being devoted to the role of China in the fentanyl crisis—advanced, in particular, by B.C. attorney general David Eby and Port Coquitlam mayor Brad West. West wants a public inquiry to focus on corruption and, presumably, the role of the Chinese government in the fentanyl crisis.

      But little is said in the media about the role of American companies in the growing death toll in Canada. And CBC seems to be the only Canadian media outlet seriously interested in the impact of thefts of prescription drugs from pharmacies as a factor.

      Eby, however, has launched litigation against drug companies and retailers, including Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin pain pills. He's hoping it will be certified as a class action.

      Yet in the minds of many British Columbians, it's only China that's poisoning and killing addicts and it's only the Chinese who are laundering money through real estate—notwithstanding funds that are pouring into the city from Iran, South America, and Europe.

      China continues undermining human rights 

      That's not to say that China should be given a free pass. Its treatment of Tibet has been horrific. Human Rights Watch has chronicled China's "mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment of Turkic Muslims" in Xinjiang province in the western part of the country.

      "More broadly, governmental controls over day-to-day life in Xinjiang primarily affect ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other minorities, in violation of international law’s prohibitions against discrimination," the human-rights group stated in a report this year.

      The Human Rights Watch report was primarily based on interviews with 101 people, including 58 former residents of Xinjiang and five former detainees.

      Meanwhile, Chinese prosecutors have put nine pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong on trial for their role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Amnesty International has condemned this as "politically motivated".

      And China's treatment of its only Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiabo, was disgraceful. The writer, intellectual, and pro-democracy advocate died in prison last year at the age of 62.

      But America's involvement in overthrowing a multitude of governments around the world has also been disgraceful. As was the United States war of aggression against Iraq in 2003, which was based on the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

      According to the Iraq Body Count website, there have been between 182,650 and 205,043 documented civilian deaths in Iraq from violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

      U.S. F-14D Tomcat fighter jets have conducted many missions over the Persian Gulf.
      Tech Sgt. Rob Tabor


      Judging from the media coverage in recent years, it's logical to conclude that there is a campaign underway to convince Canadians to despise China.

      At the same time, China has a vested interest in persuading its own people that its crooks are taking money out of the country because that can serve as an excuse for declining economic growth.

      China's gross domestic product is around US$14 trillion. America's GDP is around US$19 trillion.

      China's population is around 1.4 billion; America's is around 325 million.

      The U.S. military budget is nearly three times that of China, though China has 2.35 million active military personnel—about a million more than that of the United States.

      No sensible person in the world wants to see a war between China and the United States, which are both nuclear powers.

      But Steve Bannon thinks it's inevitable. And given America's firepower, it would likely win—if anyone could be called a winner after carnage of that magnitude. In fact, the only real winners would be American arms manufacturers.

      Canada has been drawn into the growing tensions between these two countries by arresting the Huawei executive.

      If it's true that her alleged crime is violating an embargo on Iran, keep in mind that this was imposed by the Trump administration after it "reneged on American commitments under a nuclear accord"—in the words of Washington Post foreign-affairs writer Ishaan Tharoor.

      The danger for Canadians is if some people outside of this country are trying to lay the groundwork for a war between the United States and China—and if part of the plan is to engineer more hatred for China in this country and drag Canada into any conflict.

      Given geographic and historical considerations, Canada would likely have no choice but to remain sympathetic to the Americans if armed hostilities ever broke out.

      While war seems unlikely right now, here's what may occur if the U.S. ever engages in armed conflict with China: some people of Chinese ancestry in Canada could find themselves being interned.

      It's a logical assumption, based on what happened to Italian Canadians and Japanese Canadians in the Second World War.

      It's something to keep in the back of your mind when you read the headlines in the Canadian media these days.