It was always going to be a dramatic confrontation.
The President of the United States, ready to take on the bad behavior of China when it comes to intellectual property theft and trade imbalances, sits down to dinner with the Chinese President during the G-20 conference in Buenos Aries.
The table has been literally and figuratively set for a discussion on how to get the trade conversation back on track between the two goliath nations before the arrival of a deadline set by the United States when, upon its passing, the US promises to increase tariffs on Chinese imports from the current 10 percent to 25 percent.
This is a promise that would inflict serious economic pain on both participants in this brewing war.
Given the immense importance of the topic, it would be reasonable to anticipate that President Trump and his team would arrive at the dinner table with all relevant arguments and information needed to slay the Chinese dragon, right?
Apparently, not so much.
As the soup was being served in Buenos Aires, a very different service was taking place far to the north in Vancouver, Canada. Instead of cream of celery, or whatever was on the menu at the G-20, Meng Wanzhou, CFO and Vice-Chairman of Huawei Technologies, Ltd., and the heir apparent to her father who founded the huge communications company, was being served with a warrant for her arrest.
While the charges against Ms. Wanzhou have not been revealed, it is expected that they involve violations of the American sanctions against Iran.
One imagines the timing of the two events was coordinated by the White House to let the Chinese know that America means business and can take on their trade issues with strength, resolve and without fear of any adversary. President Trump, by seeking and permitting the arrest of a Chinese citizen with such strong connections to her government, was sending Chinese President Xi Jinping the message that the United States was not afraid of our Asian economic foe and was not about to let anything or anyone stand in the way of American justice.
Whether one agrees with this sort of an approach to negotiations or not, the events of December 1st, 2028 would certainly suggest that a strategy was underway.
But…again…not so much.
It turns out that the President of the United States, who has chosen to go toe to toe with the Chinese in the flourishing trade war, had no idea that an extradition order had even been issued-let alone executed-in the case of Ms. Wanzhou.
If you are now experiencing some suspicion that this alleged lack of knowledge on the part of the President is just the sort of thing the liberal, mainstream media would come up in an effort to undermine the public’s view of Trump’s competency, and the competency of his administration, I can’t say I blame you.
It does, after all, seem highly suspect that an extradition request involving so important a Chinese player could exist without the express knowledge and approval of the President. It is even more unlikely (bordering on unbelievable) that the Canadian government would act on that request on the very day when the American President was sitting down with his Chinese counterpart to try and make headway on all things trade related.
Yet, this is precisely what happened.
We know this because National Security Advisor John Bolton told us that this is what happened. And we know that we did not misunderstand Mr. Bolton’s comments because, just this morning, Director of the United States National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, confirmed that this is precisely what happened.
How do we, the American people, whether we support or oppose this President and his administration, not have some serious concerns about what is going on in this White House?
Not surprisingly, the Chinese government had demanded that Meng Whanzou be immediately released from custody. Concerns are rising as to the ammunition this will give the hardliners in China who are already suspicious and not particularly anxious to deal with the United States on the topics of intellectual property and fair trade.
According to the New York Times, Deng Yuwen, a political analyst in Beijing, fears conservative forces in the Chinese government and society could use Ms. Meng’s arrest to resist concessions as trade talks unfold
in the next few months.
“If the U.S. makes an example of Huawei, the conservative nationalist forces in China and also the military will be very unhappy, and that will make it even more difficult to make compromises with the United States.” “In the short term, the United States might gain from playing this card, but in the longer term, it doesn’t gain from this,” Mr. Deng added. “This will make it harder for the reformers to speak up.”
Today we learn that Ms. Whanzou will be turned over to the United States and will stand trial on the charges.
This cannot be a useful development in the efforts to avoid a trade war, and an increase in tariffs on Chinese imports that will ultimately levy a significant tax on American consumers.
Say what you will about our current administration. I certainly have had much to say about it and my take is often critical. But it should go without saying that, given the circumstances, it is nothing short of remarkable that our president was completely in the dark as to the issuance of an extradition warrant in this case and the timing of the arrest of one of China’s most influential citizens. It is additionally stunning that he would not be given the opportunity to consider the impact this event would have on so serious a negotiation and decide for himself if the arrest was advisable.
There is something very, very wrong.
Whether this falls on the shoulders of NSA Bolton who apparently believes he just doesn’t need to inform the president of what is happening in his shop, or the president himself is to blame for not wanting his aides and agency heads to keep him informed, this is no way to run a government let alone a negotiation critical to the fortunes of American farmers, business operators and consumers.
When the negotiations with the Chinese over our trade issues implode-and I predict they will- you might want to give a thought to how a failure to communicate with the Commander-In-Chief down the hall can bring economic misery on so many Americans and then ask yourself if this is an acceptable way to run our country.