Chinese strongman Xi Jinping shows his weakness in prisoner swap in face of AUKUS security pact

From an economic, political, diplomatic, and human-rights perspective, Xi has been a disaster for his country

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      It took only nine days after the formation of a new trilateral military alliance for China to capitulate in a diplomatic standoff with the West.

      And it suggests that President Xi Jinping recognizes that he overplayed his hand with the West by taking two Canadians hostage just as his country is facing very serious economic challenges.

      The AUKUS trilateral security pact, announced on September 15, cleared the way for the U.S. and the U.K. to help Australia buy nuclear-powered submarines.

      It also enables Australia to work closely with the U.K. and the U.S. on cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. 

      On September 24, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were released from Chinese prisons and allowed to return home after being held hostage since December 2018.

      They were thrown in Chinese jails 32 months ago after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a provisional warrant.

      The release came after Meng admitted to wrongdoing in a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. prosecutors after she was charged with fraud. 

      It was an old-fashioned prisoner swap, along the lines of what the world used to see during the Cold War.

      The AUKUS deal enraged France because Australia cancelled a contract to buy submarines from the French.

      But it may have also spooked President Xi Jinping of China, whose bellicose refusal to adhere to international human-rights norms spurred the AUKUS deal in the first place.

      Most alarming for Xi is that the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and India did not raise any objections to the AUKUS agreement.

      According to an article in the Diplomat, the only serious criticism of the AUKUS pact came from Malaysia and Indonesia.

      Vietnam, which is still a Communist-ruled country, issued a wishy-washy statement about the deal. That came a month after U.S. vice president Kamala Harris visited the country and condemned China's "bullying and excessive maritime claims".

      Vietnam has had a tense relationship with China for many years over the South China Sea, a border dispute, and Chinese ransomware attacks. This was only exacerbated by perceptions among many Vietnamese that new COVID-19 infections were linked to illegal border crossings by Chinese citizens.

      President Xi of China tried to shore up relations with Vietnam in a recent phone call with his Vietnamese counterpart.

      Xi declared on September 24 that "it is the most fundamental common strategic interest of China and Vietnam to safeguard the security of their Communist Parties' governance", according to the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily media outlet.

      The reality, however, is that Xi's disgraceful and criminal treatment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, his bullying of Asian neighbours in the South China Sea, and his hostage diplomacy with the two Canadians have sent a message to his neighbours that he can't be trusted.

      The AUKUS pact signalled to Beijing that the U.S. is prepared to help its friends in the region. And the friends, even those that have strong trade and business ties with China, appear to be okay with this.

      The two Michaels are now back on Canadian soil. U.S. president Joe Biden has improved the perception of his country in Canada as a result.

      Yet far from showing weakness in dealing with China, Biden has sent a message to Xi that he means business.

      All in all, that's probably good news for the independent East Asian island nation of Taiwan, which has the most to fear from Xi's bullying and egocentric ruling style.

      The 68-year-old Xi will celebrate his ninth year as president in November. And what does he have to show for this?

      1. A country largely despised around the world.

      2. A legacy of anti-Asian hatred directed against people of Chinese ancestry in the West, which he has contributed to.

      3. Terrible relations with his largest neighbour, India, and more diplomatic problems with another large neighbour, Vietnam.

      4. A looming exodus from Hong Kong, which will further undermine China's economy, which is already in trouble

      5. Rising inflation and energy prices.

      6. Power shortages in some cities.

      7. A debt crisis at China's second-largest property developer, Evergrande Real Estate Group, which briefly rocked international stock markets. According to the Wall Street Journal, China is preparing for Evergrande's collapse.

      8. Xi has bullied the Chinese tech industry into submission, which will only stifle innovation and the country's economic competitiveness in the future.

      In response to his wretched record, Xi has cozied up to authoritarian thugs such as Russia's Vladimir Putin, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khameini, and Hungary's Viktor Orban—something the Hungarian people are thoroughly sick of.

      China used to have good relations with Canada. Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre, was one of the first Western leaders to recognize the People's Republic of China. Justin Trudeau visited China less than a year after becoming prime minister.

      Now, Chinese-Canada relations are in tatters. And China has woken up to the fact that Canada still has some influential friends around the world.

      Xi is like the kid in the schoolyard that nobody wants to be associated with.

      In the meantime, China continues whining about "foreign interference" in its domestic affairs. It happened throughout the kidnapping of Kovrig and Spavor.

      The People's Daily has another article on that topic today, noting that 65 countries have opposed interference in China's internal affairs under the "pretext of human rights".

      These countries weren't identified, but you can be sure that they're not paragons of freedom and democracy. The statement was issued by one of China's foremost toadies in the world, Pakistan.

      Let's face this fact: Xi Jinping's presidency has been a disaster.

      Xi, and not Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, is the true Trump of the East.