Meng Wanzhou’s (personal) deferred prosecution agreement with the US Justice Dept suggests that the (Trump-era) case against her was not as strong as it could be. To Beijing, of course, she is royalty. The kidnapping of the two Michaels, and their subsequent freeing upon Meng’s release, are a one-off event.
The ‘US caved’ critics say that Beijing has now ‘learned that taking hostages works’. But the world has learned more vividly than ever that China really will arrest innocent foreign citizens for extortion purposes. Will the threat of hostage-taking make Western countries more likely to defer to the CCP’s wishes in future? If anything, it simply increases the Chinese regime’s reputation as thuggish and lawless (and confirms Huawei’s untrustworthy, quasi-government status).
The sudden resolution of this affair involved a classic example of the CCP prioritizing its domestic audience over its international reputation. The state media contrived a rapturous homecoming for Meng as a moment of great national pride, while not even mentioning her plea deal or the simultaneous release of the two Michaels (later saying they have been given ‘medical parole’). The CCP pumps up patriotic hubris among its subjects like it inflated expectations of ever-rising apartment prices. In the long run, Beijing’s ‘victory’ is likely to prove a pyrrhic one.
Will Beijing really feel emboldened enough to pull a comparable retaliatory/blackmail stunt again? It would be a sign of delusion rather than strength. With perfect timing: a Foreign Policy piece explaining the real problem – China is a declining power.