A reader from my blog sent me a lengthy email that was so good, I asked him if I could make a post out of it. He has a unique vantage point as he has extensive experience in both Asian and American business. Here is his missive:
The latest Trump fiasco just boils my blood. And there is a timely-ness aspect to it so here it goes:
The man is an absolute idiot. He's already talking about taking measures to release Meng. This shows how desperate he is concerning trade. The Chinese see this. And now Canada just announced house arrest. Trump, the artist-of-the-deal, just revealed his weakness in full glory without any advantage. The Chinese are getting what they want.
House arrest means that Meng will escape.
Imperial Chinese law for hundreds, if not thousands of years (I have to research) has allowed punishments to be "substituted". Sort of like in the American Civil War where draftees could pay poor men to take their place in the draft.
In China, you can always find someone willing to take the legal punishment for you. This includes capital crimes. Yes, in imperial China, you could get the death sentence then pay someone else to suffer the punishment for you.
The current Communist dynasty allows this too. Party members regularly find "substitutes" to serve their sentences.
The biggest problem I face in American/Chinese business negotiations is that the two sides are so culturally distant they have absolutely no common ground. What one side assumes is normal and accepted is seen as an unbelievable impossibility by the other.
This is just another example. The western legal system is not prepared to handle something like this. They have arrested a Communist dynasty princess. China will move heaven and earth to get her back.
What's going to happen with Meng under house arrest is that China will sneak in a body-double who will replace her and serve out her sentence. The entire state apparatus will devote enough resources to make this happen. House arrest makes it possible. Only under constant incarceration is it possible to prevent this from happening.
Whether the real Meng will ever appear in public again will depend on how much the Communists want to humiliate Trump. It'll just be more kompromat on dear leader.
There is a side who is running the trade talks, and it isn't Trump's side. Trump's idiocy cannot handle negotiations with a coherent, powerful opposition. He's used to using money and the law against small contractors and retail rubes. He is not mentally or emotionally or intellectually prepared to deal with state level international negotiations. Especially against a power as culturally distant as China.
China's trade behavior has to be put back into international norms (this goes back to what is considered culturally acceptable in negotiations). However, the way Trump is trying to do it is causing irreparable harm to the USA. One of the reasons that past administrations haven't done anything is like the Hippocratic oath: "do no harm." China trade as is currently is, is like a cancer to the USA. But Trump is treating the cancer by giving the patient a heart attack and stroke.
What Trump is doing is engaging China on a thug/gangster level. Hostage taking is now an acceptable part of international diplomacy. Since WW2, we've been trying to drag ourselves out of the muck and the orange-fool is happy to jump back into the wallow of human nastiness.
Society is people trying to live together. As it is for people, it is for nations. Trump is happy to drag us all back to eye-for-an-eye and unending strife. No higher goal or purpose except instant gratification.
Trade negotiations are basically at the point where Trump is drooling like a starving dog at what was previously China's FIRST offer (which Trump rejected). This isn't negotiation. This is getting played.
China: Wow! We've got it so good. This is ridiculous. Sooner or later they'll want new terms.
Trump: Trade wars are easy. Tariff, tariff, tariff!
China: Here's (a lame, unverifiable, great-deal for China) first offer.
Trump: Trade wars are easy. No! Tariff, tariff, tariff!
China: We'll wait.
Trump: PLEASE! Anything!
China: (Same as first offer). Here, spin it as hard as you can.
Trump: I won! I won!