China envoy to Canada urges against 'decoupling'

Montreal (AFP) –


Beijing's ambassador to Canada on Tuesday pushed back at growing calls in the West to disengage from China, saying this would risk unravelling globalization.

Ambassador Cong Peiwu, speaking at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, also pitched closer cooperation with Canada -- ostensibly an olive branch after two years of frayed diplomatic relations over tit-for-tat arrests of a Huawei executive and two Canadian nationals, or an attempt to hammer a wedge in a US-led alliance taking on Beijing.

"We are worried that because some people here in Western countries are preaching the idea of decoupling (with China)," the ambassador said.

"This is dangerous, because for us, we believe this is the age of globalization, and for us, we will continue to open up for the outside."

China, now the world's second-largest economy, and the West have grown increasing at odds over a wide array of issues, from trade and intellectual property to Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Canada in particular has drummed up support from allies to pressure China into releasing its two citizens, former diplomatic Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the two were "arbitrarily detained" and tried on "trumped-up" espionage charges.

Cong warned that "decoupling" from China would lead to lost business opportunities and disrupt global supply chains.

"We should be united in fighting against this kind of protectionism, and also for free trade, and I think that's another area where China and Canada share at least similar language, so let's hope that we can (act) together in this regard," he said.

Cong specifically proposed greater Sino-Canadian cooperation at global forums such as the G20 and on likeminded international issues including climate change.

"I think China and Canada can do a lot of things together," he said, adding: "We have a lot of common interests."

Pressed about Kovrig and Spavor, who were tried in secret last month, Cong dismissed reports that they'd been mistreated in Chinese jails, saying: "There's been nothing like that."

Meanwhile, he renewed calls for Canada to release Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, saying Canada must "right this wrong."

Meng, whose father is Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in December 2018 on a US warrant during a stopover in Vancouver.

She has been fighting extradition to the United States to face charges of bank fraud linked to US sanctions against Iran, with hearings scheduled to wrap up in May.