US starts to get twitchy over travel to China

The US Department of State has renewed its warning over citizens travelling to China over fears of retaliation following the arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Canada.

After Washington ordered the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada last month, China has seemingly retaliated with a spree of its own arrests. Reports suggest as many as 13 Canadians have been held in China, including former diplomat Michael Kovrig and consultant Michael Spavor. Reacting to the news, the US State Department has issued its own warning.

On the State Department website, the caution level has been raised to ‘Level Two’, suggesting citizens ‘exercise increased caution’ when visiting the country. ‘Level Three’ would see the government advising citizens to reconsider travel plans, while ‘Level Four’ suggests the country should be avoided.

“Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual US-Chinese nationals,” the website states. “Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping US citizens in China for years.”

Despite the tension caused by the political conflict between Washington and Beijing, it does not appear to have affected the attitude of executives. Apple CEO Tim Cook has suggested he will not be revising his own plans to travel to China, though it would be tough to see the Chinese government holding Cook considering there are seemingly no grounds to do so. Apple is currently ignoring a ban on iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 sales in the country, thanks to the patent dispute with Qualcomm, but this seem like thin justification to arrest the CEO.

This international conflict is multi-faceted, but technology is one of the key components. Ultimately, the US wants to withstand the challenge the Chinese are making to Silicon Valley’s domination of the technology world and the benefits this brings the entire US economy. Despite these moves from the US State Department, experience suggests the Chinese will not make any drastic moves against the US; it has been much more measured and strategic in its approach to tackling the trade war to date than the White House has been.

That said, it would not surprise us if a couple of US citizens start appearing in jail cells either.

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