Editorial: Trade question looms in China dispute


This week in our community is normally a poignant, joyful injection of optimism and best wishes as we enter the Lunar New Year. But we have reason to be nervous and anxious as the Year of the Pig ensues.

Our relationship with China, in particular, is the most tense and debated in memory. It poses large geopolitical questions for Canada that will be felt acutely in our region.

The public focal point is the local detention to face extradition to the United States of the CFO of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Meng Wanzhou has been held here for two months and it will likely be many months more before her case resolves. China retaliated by arresting two Canadians and imposing the death sentence on a drug-dealing Canadian.

No matter your view on Meng’s apprehension, it was unhelpful for our since-fired ambassador to muse about the weakness of the U.S. case against her. We are right to ask: Was John McCallum speaking for the government, saying what it dared not? And if so, are we far too soft on the superpower?

That question extends into a more significant focal point in the enlarging debate about whether Canada should be using Huawei technology in the impending 5G era. Most of our allies express concerns about the company’s ties to the Chinese government, but Canada’s position so far is an open one.

Canada’s next steps are going to be extremely instructive. The Justin Trudeau government appears to be sputtering in coming to terms with China under a more formidably powerful Xi Jinping. Our trade engagement will reveal our attitude, and nowhere will that be more meaningful than in British Columbia, the crucial gateway to Asia and home to hundreds of thousands of Chinese. Here’s hoping the new year is a happier one.