Analysis: China celebrates Meng Wanzhou’s return as victory – even at the cost of its global image


The moment a government chartered plane took out Meng Canada – where the CFO spent nearly three years under house arrest in his multimillion-dollar mansion her journey home The blitz became an all-out nationalist propaganda.

Crowd waving a red carpet and sugar Flags await him on the tarmac in the southern city of Shenzhen, where tech giant Huawei is headquartered. Patriotic slogans and songs reverberated in the arrival hall of the airport. Downtown skyscrapers sparked messages welcoming him home.

The event was broadcast live by the state media and the internet was full of excitement. one online live stream CCTV by the state broadcaster ran for six consecutive hours, garnering over 83 million views. he is The launch of China’s manned mission to send three astronauts into space has over 38 million views in June.
“Without a mighty homeland, I would not have my freedom today,” Meng wrote during her flight in a lengthy social media post that was widely shared online and read out Word for word by a state television anchor.
Meng has been homecoming for the domestic audience framed The story of China’s diplomatic victories and as a sign of its growing political clout. According to that legend, Meng is an innocent victim”political persecution“The crushing of China’s high-tech industry by the United States.

“The situation is portrayed [within China] As the Chinese government stands before the US to get back a citizen; “They stood up to bullying and bullying,” said Jeremy Duan, a legal expert at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School.

State media reports highlights The fact that Meng pleaded not guilty, but acquitted him Entry that he misled the banking giant hsbc (HBCYF) About Huawei’s relationship with an Iranian subsidiary. US prosecutors charge Which could put the bank at risk of breaching sanctions.

“It’s a very partisan presentation of the whole story, but it’s not surprising,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, an expert on Chinese politics at Hong Kong Baptist University. “[It’s] Hiding a part of the truth – the part that doesn’t serve China’s interests and the image of its government.”

Beijing’s publicity win domestically stands in stark contrast to the hit the country’s reputation has taken overseas. In the eyes of many observers, the ruling Communist Party has made any pretense about its apparent willingness to take political hostages. two canadians released Moments after Meng gained independence.

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur with business ties to North Korea, were detained on espionage charges, days after Meng was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018. The move was widely interpreted as direct retaliation. for meng. Beijing has repeatedly denied that it is taking two Canadians as political hostages.

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“I must point out that Meng Wanzhou’s incident and Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig’s cases are completely different,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said. said Earlier this month, Canada was accused of being “sensational” in what it called an “isolated case”.

Donald C. Clark, an expert in Chinese law at George Washington University, said that although he thought it was clear from the beginning that the pair were linked to Meng’s case, the scholarly and journalistic community was shocked that his release How meticulous was it? Time

“We all thought China would keep another fig leaf on the exchange, by waiting a certain amount of time,” he said. “One way of interpreting this is that China anticipates engaging in hostage taking in the future, and is consolidating its bargaining position by showing that That it is a reliable deal maker – that if you give us what we want, we will free the hostages immediately without any fuss.

“If you don’t trust the kidnapper to really take the hostages back, you can’t pay them such a huge ransom.”

Initially, Chinese state media was mostly silent on the release of the two Canadians, while discussions about their fate were cleared from social media. Then, on Sunday night, several state-run outlets reported that the Canadians had “confessed their guilt to the crimes” and were granted bail on medical grounds – although they did not mention Meng’s case.

But those reports barely made a splash in China, and came well after the nationalist frenzy celebrating Meng’s homecoming.

Supporters of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou gather at an international airport in Shenzhen Bao in southern China to welcome his return.

Drew Thompson, visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said: “The intense nationalism displayed in China upon Meng’s return is a sign that Beijing’s strategy was successful in its own right. doing.” .

“We can therefore expect the hostage-taking of foreign merchants to be a recurring feature of China’s diplomacy.”

Experts say Beijing enjoys its triumph of nationalist pride The celebration highlights the potential for further damage to China’s international reputation and its ties with Canada, a country with which it has traditionally had strong trade ties.

“I think they have poisoned relations with Canada for a long time,” Clarke said. “They’ve taken a huge PR hit.”

According to pew research center, 73% of Canadians surveyed this year held a negative opinion of China – compared to 40% in 2017. Political tensions between Ottawa and Beijing are also rising rapidly. In February, the Parliament of Canada passed a resolution China declared genocide against its minority Uighur Muslim population. One month later, Canada The United States and other allies joined In sanctioning two Chinese officials for “serious human rights abuses” against Uighurs. China has denied the allegations.
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The release of Meng and Do Michaels also won’t help Huawei or Beijing evade the heavy sanctions that Washington has handed over to the country. Analysts at Jefferies said on Sunday that they did not think Meng’s release would cause the United States to lift a ban on Huawei, which allows the company to use chipsets that help build 5G equipment, for example. for.

“[US President Joe] Biden’s deal with China on Meng has already received criticism from some Republicans as “subdued to China,” analysts wrote in a research note. Huawei has previously admitted that its business has been severely disrupted from American penalties.

In many Western countries, there are also growing concerns over China’s “hostage diplomacy”, experts say.

Having said that China is willing to do anything to achieve its international ambitions, countries whose governments have harassed Beijing may feel anxious about traveling there.

“even though the possibility for a person” [being detained] There is very little, if it does, the burden of it is too much … If you’re a rational calculator, you’d be worried about that,” Clark said.

But Beijing values ​​domestic support more than international image, said Cabestan of Hong Kong Baptist University.

“[Internationally,] They care more about hard power than soft power,” he added [Chinese President] Xi Jinping, it is better to be afraid than to be loved.”

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