A Canadian business professor says our country will “be on the losing end” of a dispute between China and the U.S. over the arrest of a prominent executive from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
“I don’t think, maybe, Canadians really appreciate… (that) this company is their crown jewel of success,” Ian Lee, an associate professor of management at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, told CTV News Channel Saturday from Ottawa.
“It is their Google and Microsoft and Apple all rolled into one,” he added. “It was as if… China had arrested the daughter or the widow of Steve Jobs from the Apple corporation.”
On Dec. 1, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou -- the daughter of the company’s politically-connected founder -- was detained in Vancouver at the behest of U.S. authorities, who want to see her extradited to their country to face fraud charges related to alleged violations of Iranian sanctions.
While Meng is currently out on $10-million bail, two prominent Canadians have subsequently been detained in China.
Lee, who has also spent more than two decades teaching in an MBA program in Shanghai, said there is “deep anger in China” over Meng’s arrest. More retaliation against Canada, he believes, could be coming unless the diplomatic spat is resolved.
“They are not going to let go until they obtain the release of the CFO of Huawei,” Lee said of the Chinese government. “It will be relentless and they will continue to ratchet it up and we are going to be on the losing end of this.”
Canadian businesses, he added, should be “very concerned” about their prospects in China, which is Canada’s second largest trading partner after the U.S.
“There’s a very clear freeze on the Chinese side,” he said. “It’s not going to be business as usual. It’s not going to be compartmentalized, to use that wonderful phrase. It’s going to be front and centre of Canadian-Chinese relations until we resolve it and until she is released into the hands of the Chinese authorities.”
The only way to resolve the Meng case, Lee suggested, is through tripartite dialogue at the highest levels between Canada, China and the U.S.
“It affects the relationship between all three countries,” he said. “We’ve got to engage in realpolitik diplomacy behind the scenes to find out whatever levers we have and legal levers we have to ensure that she can be released to the Chinese after the suitable face-saving announcements have been made by the three parties.”
Lee warns that other Canadians in China -- particularly those with ties to the Canadian government -- could also be at risk of being detained if Meng is not released soon.
“I think that people that are diplomats or quasi-diplomats or former diplomats, maybe working with NGOs, are probably more vulnerable,” than CEOs and business leaders, he said. “And we haven’t even looked at what the examined possible other forms of retaliation against Canada in terms of China’s response to us. So the game isn’t over. There’s more to come. “