Puzzled About Huawei Arrest

Meng Wanzhou

Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies

I don’t have the answers. I’m simply puzzled.

On behalf of the U.S. government, Canadian officials arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of China-based Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

Reports say that as an executive of Huawei, she is charged with evading U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.

In other words, the U.S. government doesn’t like Iran, and Huawei is trading with Iran. So Ms. Meng is in jail. (Chinese names put the surname first.)

I’ll lay my cards on the table: I don’t have much use for Iran, but I like the Chinese.

Yes, their government is authoritarian. Ours is, too, but hides it better.

They’re not exactly like us, but they’re smart, hard-working, and civilized. They respect themselves, their country, and their history. They’re patriotic. If they weren’t citizens of other countries (principally China and Taiwan), they’d make wonderful Americans. We could learn a lot from them.

In any dispute between China and the United States, I’m on the American side. But if America is to be judged by its adversaries, then the Chinese make us look pretty good.

Now, I really do “get it” about the trade sanctions against Iran.

If the U.S. government tells everyone “we don’t want you trading with Iran,” and companies trade with Iran anyway, it’s no surprise if the companies are penalized somehow. But I’d expect the penalties to be monetary fines or restrictions on market access, not the arrest of company executives as if they were criminals.

One blogger expressed the attitude that puzzles me most: “China simply refuses to respect U.S. law.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I wouldn’t expect most American laws to apply in China, just as Chinese laws don’t apply in America.

What if the Chinese government passed a law infringing on American sovereignty? Would that be okay? I don’t think so.

Several lawyers read this blog, so maybe one of them can clear it up for me.

Like I said, I don’t have the answers. But I find the situation very puzzling.

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
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4 Responses to Puzzled About Huawei Arrest

  1. J P says:

    It is my understanding that the US case is based on fraud in that US Banks were induced to make loans to her company that they otherwise would not have made, thus putting them in the position of having unwittingly aiding sanction violation.

    I am less sanguine about China, at least in it’s current authoritarian state. They seem to want both to be part of the world community but to also ignore world conventions on things like human rights and patent/copyright protection. It seems to me that they need to choose one.

    I suspect that this arrest may be part of a larger context in which Chinese and Western rights and obligations are being contested. I am not, however, sure that this is a good idea.

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    • N.S. Palmer says:

      I think you’ve hit on their strength and their weakness. Their strength is their group cohesion: they care about China and the Chinese (which in their eyes, means the Han Chinese — there are about 50 other ethnic groups in China that have second-class status).

      Chinese people’s concern about the welfare of their own group is a little excessive, causing them to ignore their duties to members of other groups, including us. We have the opposite problem: in the United States, all right-thinking people are concerned about the welfare of every group except Americans. It seems to be a difficult thing to get right. The Swiss seem to manage it, but they’re outliers.

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      • J P says:

        Their other looming issue is demographic winter. The one-child policy is 40 years old and it won’t be long before the worker-to-retiree ratio goes really bad.

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      • N.S. Palmer says:

        They’re trying to correct the demographic problem by offering incentives to have more children. But one has to wonder: Is it something in the water? Productive populations around the world are suffering from “birth dearths,” as demographer Ben Wattenberg called it. Populations that can’t support themselves, on the other hand, are exploding. About the only self-sustaining populations that have a lot of children are orthodox religious believers of various faiths. Is modernity that deadly? Maybe.

        Zero Hedge reports that a former Fed Governor also finds the arrest puzzling, though for more detailed reasons: “Something About the Huawei Arrest Doesn’t Make Sense.”

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