How Team Biden revived Huawei, negotiated release of the ‘Ivanka Trump of China’

FPI / November 2, 2022


On a moonlit night, after 1,019 days in captivity in China, two blindfolded Canadians were freed and departed the country from Tianjin Binhai International Airport.

At the same time, at Vancouver International Airport in Canada, Chinese Communist royalty in the person of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer for Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, was headed home, too.

President Donald Trump, right, national security adviser John Bolton, second from right, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, far left, having dinner on Dec. 1, 2018, at a G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. / Reuters

What was seen as one of the most significant prisoner swaps in recent diplomatic history, on Sept. 25, 2021, was the result of the Biden administration bowing to the communist regime in Beijing and reviving the fortunes of Huawei, regarded by U.S. intelligence agencies as a worldwide surveillance threat.

Meng had been arrested in Canada with dramatic timing on Dec. 1, 2018, as President Donald Trump was having a consequential dinner with China’s Xi Jinping.

Huawei, which was founded by her father, was at the time poised to win the race to build 5G networks in most of the world’s largest economies.

Canadian authorities took Meng into custody in Vancouver, British Columbia, on behalf of the U.S., which had filed bank-fraud charges against her in relation to violations of sanctions on Iran.

“The detention of the 50-year-old celebrity businesswoman, and U.S. efforts to extradite her for trial in New York, transformed her into a national martyr in China and a symbol of America’s growing hostility to its nearest rival,” the Wall Street Journal noted in an Oct. 27 report on the prisoner exchange.

Related: For reference, specialist publishes Huawei’s lengthy tech-theft espionage record, January 4, 2022

Days after Meng’s arrest. Michael Kovrig, who was on leave from Canada’s Foreign Ministry to work for the International Crisis Group in Hong Kong, and Michael Spavor, who ran a business that helped students, athletes and academics visit North Korea, were arrested by Chinese authorities.

“The arrests marked a turning point in the growing power competition between the U.S. and China, helping shift it from mutual wariness to full-blown animosity. Unlike last century’s Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union, the prisoner skirmish reflected a U.S.-China battle for control of the international flow of data and, ultimately, primacy in global commerce,” the Journal’s report said.

Meng had planned to spend only a few hours in Vancouver when she touched down on Dec. 1, 2018. It was one of four cities where she kept a home.

The Huawei CFO checked seven suitcases, packed with presentation material for meetings in four countries, including Mexico. The country’s newly inaugurated president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was open to Huawei building 5G networks in his country, brushing off U.S. security concerns.

John Bolton, then-national security adviser in the Trump administration, knew Meng’s arrest could disrupt the Dec. 1, 2018 G20 summit’s marquee event that, a dinner between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“Yet Mr. Bolton, a longtime China hawk, felt it was worth the risk. The president didn’t yet know about the plan. White House staffers later debated whether Mr. Bolton had told Mr. Trump or if it hadn’t fully registered with the president,” the report said.

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