by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A plea deal involving a senior Chinese telecommunications executive that coincided with China’s release of Western hostages exposes a fundamental flaw in President Joe Biden’s approach to Beijing and raises the risk that authoritarian states seize more Americans.
“They took hostages,” Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat and senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Examiner. “They defeated our criminal law by taking hostages. They took Canadian hostages. They took American hostages. And they were successful.”
That frank admission dovetails with Chinese propaganda about the release of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who faced extradition from Canada on charges that she committed fraud in order to facilitate Iran’s circumvention of U.S. sanctions. Justice Department officials touted the plea deal as Meng “tak[ing] responsibility for her principal role” in the sanctions-busting fraud. But Beijing has celebrated the outcome, and Sherman takes it as a sign that Biden is hamstrung by a desire to avoid the economic fallout from a major confrontation with China.
“Everybody’s in favor of doing something vis-a-vis China, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience any powerful American,” Sherman said of Biden’s team. “I think he’s got smart people who have great meetings, who use all of the levers at their disposal, and they don’t have any levers. There’s one lever, tariffs, and they don’t want to use them.”
In the meantime, Chinese officials have all but advised other countries to seize hostages as leverage in disputes with the United States.
“We believe that more countries will step forward as China did and defend all kinds of illegal unilateral sanctions, long-arm jurisdiction and political framing, jointly uphold international equity and justice, and defend the basic norms governing international relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said this week.