BEIJING – China's leadership is trying to strike a delicate balance between outrage and necessity as it seeks to maintain a recent thaw with the United States while lashing out at the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive.
That balancing act was on display in Beijing on Sunday as the Chinese government said it had summoned the U.S. ambassador to China, former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, to protest the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese electronics giant Huawei and the older daughter of its founder.
Earlier in the day, People's Daily, the Communist Party's official newspaper, warned of "serious consequences" against the Canadian authorities who arrested Meng on a U.S. warrant. She was detained in Canada more than a week ago on suspicion of fraud involving violations of U.S. sanctions in Iran.
The editorial warned that "only by correcting its mistake, immediately ending its violation of a Chinese citizen's lawful and legitimate rights and giving the Chinese people a due explanation, can Canada avoid paying a heavy price."
But at a high-level conference Sunday at Tsinghua University in Beijing that included four Nobel laureates in economics from the United States, a senior adviser to the Chinese leadership opened his remarks by praising the two countries' broader economic relationship and avoiding any mention of the arrest.
"The economies of China and the United States are integrated," said the adviser, Ma Jianting, a vice president of the Development Research Council, the policy advisory unit of China's Cabinet. "There is no parting of the ways."
Beijing has taken a series of steps to improve trans-Pacific relations since President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping called a truce in their trade war at the end of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires. Trump agreed in the Argentine capital to defer plans to raise tariffs on $200 billion a year in Chinese goods on Jan. 1.
In the United States on Sunday, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is leading the talks with China, made clear that he considered March 1 "a hard deadline" for the negotiations.