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  • Author: Christopher W. Bishop
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: The idea for this paper began after several conversations with Canadian friends and colleagues about the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. On December 10, 2018, Chinese officials detained the two Canadian citizens for “endangering state security”, 10 days after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, on an extradition warrant from the United States, where she was wanted for bank fraud. Despite Chinese statements denying any connection between the two Michaels and Meng, some Canadians have argued the only way to gain their release is for Canada to release Meng – a classic “prisoner exchange”. Others, however, have argued just as forcefully that trading Meng for the two Canadians would only give legitimacy to China’s “hostage diplomacy”. One friend asked me if China had ever done anything like this before. How had those cases been resolved, and what would China do this time? Those were good questions. As a U.S. Foreign Service officer who has spent much of my career working on China – including at the U.S. embassy in Beijing from 2015-2018, where I analyzed the Communist Party leadership and China’s state security apparatus – I had some insight into Chinese foreign policy. I also had a personal connection to one of the cases. I knew Michael Kovrig – he had been one of my counterparts at the Canadian embassy in Beijing – and I had great respect for his work as a diplomat, and later as a senior advisor at the International Crisis Group. Moreover, because I was now on leave from the U.S. Department of State to serve as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in Canada, I had time to look for some answers. And so I began trying to identify and analyze similar cases from the recent past. This paper is the result. It represents my own views, and although the Department of State has allowed me to publish it in my personal capacity, it does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department or the U.S. government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Affairs, Prisons/Penal Systems, Finance
  • Political Geography: China, Canada, Asia, North America, United States of America