US Media Missing the BIG News

Last Wednesday at 10 pm, I decided to check the TV news. Here’s what I found: The Chinese-language channel KTSF led with the latest on Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s CFO, with a US request to extradite; the local English station KTVU (Fox, but liberal) led with the Bush funeral; and CNN…well of course, it was Mueller, Mueller, Mueller as usual.

Arguably, only the Chinese program got it right. US-China relations are spiraling out of control. China is threatening” severe consequences” for Canada’s cooperation with the US, taken to mean arrest of Canadians in China, and of course denounced the US for “illegally” requesting Canada to extradite Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO. The US State Dept. had previously issued a Travel Advisory for Americans considering going to China. And who would dare go even if the advisory is lifted, not only with this event but many other troubling actions by China in the last couple of years, e.g. the disappearance of the Interpol chief, a Chinese national?  At great risk is the already-shaky US-China relationship, with potential major economic, political and even military adverse impacts for both parties. China is fiercely demanding Meng’s release.

The evidence revealed so far is scant, as it is just for the bail hearing. Meng is accused of directing the financial aspects of Huawei’s secretly violating its agreement with the US not to sell sensitive equipment to Iran, and in so doing, engaging in bank fraud.

In addition to the possible global implications, the case is certainly making for good high drama. Meng owns two homes in Vancouver, one valued in the  millions and the other in the tens of millions. One was the subject of a mysterious home invasion attempt over the weekend. Meng has been married two or three times. Her half-sister is a Harvard debutante. Meng has at various times been in possession of about seven passports.

Meanwhile, tragedy: Stanford professor Zhang Shoucheng committed suicide last week. He was originally from China and had close ties to the Chinese government and, it is reported on the Chinese-language news in the US, ties to Meng as well. He co-directed China’s Thousand Talents Program, itself the object of controversy. According to the South China Morning Post, a respected English-language paper in Hong Kong,

Zhang’s contribution to the quantum field earned the recognition of not only his peers but also of the Chinese government. In 2009, Zhang was hand-picked to be part of an expert panel for the state-run “Thousand Talents” programme that aims to attract overseas scientists. US Pentagon and intelligence officials have branded the decade-old recruitment drive as a platform to “facilitate the legal and illicit transfer of US technology, intellectual property and know-how” to China, according to reports earlier this year.

Zhang was head of the VC fund Danhua, a firm that had been mentioned negatively in a 301 trade practices report involving connections to China. Many rumors are going through the Chinese-immigrant community that he was murdered rather than having taken his own life.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is shrilly demanding Meng’s release, all charges dropped. This seems uncharacteristic of him, so what is the driver? According to controversial Chinese dissident Guo Wengui, the real impetus is coming from the family of former Pres. Jiang Zemin, who supposedly have huge financial interests in Huawei and related firms. It could also be that China is afraid that even more damning information will emerge if Meng is brought to trial in the US.

And of course, there is national pride involved, as Huawei is viewed as the epitome of China’s emergence as a tech power. That pride has also been seriously wounded of late, with a similar case involving the Chinese firm ZTE, in which among other things was a major wakeup call to China, exposing just how dependent Chinese tech is on the US.

These things have been brewing for years, of course. Huawei has been accused of stealing technology long ago from Cisco and Nortel, contributing to the demise of the latter. And recently, fearing backdoor spy channels in Huawei equipment, the US and several other nations have banned the use of that equipment in military use.

But now things are coming to a head, suddenly and dramatically.

It is also bringing out the old and sensitive question of loyalties of immigrants to their adopted countries. Vancouver has a very large Chinese-immigrant community, and there have been protestors from that community, again demanding that the charges against Meng be dropped and she allowed to go free. They say there is “no evidence” against Meng, though again they would have no way of knowing this. Some Chinese in the audience at the bail hearing have been conspicuous in that a patriot song is played as the ringtone when their phones have incoming calls. A UBC professor who is originally from China, in an interview with a local (English language) TV news program, flatly stated that the sole motivation of the US in the Meng case is to stifle economic competition from China, hardly the impartial, nuanced analysis one would hope from an academic.

The Mueller probe won’t have big effects, I believe. It won’t contain any smoking guns about Trump, and will be milked by House Democrats just for publicity. But the Meng case could indeed have serious, long-lasting global impact. At least TIME has noticed, with an article titled “It’s Hard to Overstate How Big a Deal the Huawei CFO’s Arrest Could Be.”  Maybe CNN et al ought to devote more than a minor mention of the case.

 

 

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15 thoughts on “US Media Missing the BIG News

  1. Hey, the press *I* read has covered this reasonably well, but it also includes some pretty wild speculations about exactly how and why it happened. And even whether Trump was informed about it until after it happened. But to me the most surprising element of all is that Canada would actually *do* it at American request. That fact alone is so anomalous to me that it makes me wonder if there isn’t a whole lot more going on under the surface, motivating it, and what it really means.

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    • I didn’t say there was NO coverage in the mainstream press; on the contrary, my post included links to some.

      To ignore an ally’s request that an extradition treaty be honored, especially with a national security claim, would be pretty amazing.

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    • “if there isn’t a whole lot more going on under the surface ……”

      Exactly. The US has a trade dispute with Canada over lumber. This is just another case of brinkmanship. I bet the whole ordeal will be settled using diplomatic back channels. According to the BBC, “US President Donald Trump now says he is willing to intervene in the case.”

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    • Right, the globalists are not happy with this turn of events. See also the blog post the other day by economist Tyler Cowen. If one is a globalist, one opposes anything that would upset the Apple cart.

      But short of ideology, one doesn’t have to be a MAGA nut to be worried Huawei’s possible harm to national security. Cheating on the sanctions is one thing, but the possibility of “backdoors” in Huawei equipment that could compromise national security is a very serious issue, especially given Huawei’s track record.

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  2. In the hearing the government was very clear they had the Powerpoint slides Ms. Meng presented to HSBC bank that said Huawei had sold it’s shares in Skycom (company doing business in Iran) when in fact those shares were transferred to another entity controlled by Huawei. Legally, they have her dead to rights for fraudulent representation of compliance to the bank. But that is not covered in China…

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  3. I had not heard about the travel advisory for China. That being the case, why should any university sponsor travel there by employees or students?

    It is especially problematic when Chinese natives are members of the faculty of Chinese institutions as well as their primary employer – a US university – and are traveling on funding provided by a federal or state agency.

    Obviously holders of Chinese passports can travel on their own person funds. Chinese natives holding US passports are now eligible for the services provided to native Americans; our State Department does not need to to have that responsibility when they have determined that there is a potential danger to American citizens.

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  4. All part of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy — the book of Daniel speaks of two major powers pushing each other to the brink, and one overrunning the other. Daniel chapter 11. China’s elite believe that the “Middle Kingdom” (middle of everything; rest of the world being just the fringes) must “ascend to its proper place under heaven.” Sort of a “Manifest Destiny” scenario. I suspect the U.S. politicians have no idea of the long-term aspects of this conflict — they are just concerned about the next 2-year election cycle (and Wall Street is just concerned about the next quarterly report).

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  5. An article in the Houston Chronicle spoke about the Meng Wanzhou controversy. The article spoke about what could happen if China forbid its nationals from attending US universities. US universities could take a big financial hit. The article also said,

    “The University of Illinois Business School has reportedly begun purchasing insurance that will pay out in case they are unable to enroll enough Chinese students, who made up as much as 12 percent of their student body in 2015. According to the University of Illinois insurance policy, the drop in enrollment could be triggered by visa restrictions, a pandemic or a trade war.”

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  6. “stealing technology long ago from …It is also bringing out the old and sensitive question of loyalties of immigrants”
    Loyalty, interesting perspective. I’d attribute most of this IP theft by an intermediary for sake of their own profit.
    But, while on the topic, Nortel (and their shareholders) were ripped off the most by Google, Apple, Microsoft, uncompensated for use of their patented technology. MIA CEO preoccupied with playing with his bulldozer in Canada.

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  7. Norm, an alternate interpretation is that the PRC cannot bully the USA, so it is bullying Canada instead, the objective being to ensure the PRC’s ruling class (including Meng and generally ultra-wealthy offspring of the ruling class) is able to continue unimpeded in the quest both for personal riches and for international dominance by the PRC.

    Challenging PRC ambitions may be a risky high-wire but necessary as soon as possible, in partial analogy to past attempts by ambitious, authoritarian governments (Japan, Germany, etc) to dominate the globe.

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