The United States is reportedly working on a deal which would see Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, free to return to China without being extradited from Canada.
Meng, 48, has been under house arrest for two years this week. She was arrested in Canada following an extradition warrant issued by the US for a range of criminal charges tied to alleged breaches of sanctions against Iran.
According to the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, the US may drop this extradition request against Meng if she admits to some of those charges – though the Journal reports she is hesitant to do so.
The arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, which came as the Trump administration targeted the Chinese smartphone company, has had dramatic diplomatic repercussions.
It reportedly provoked a furious reaction from China’s premier Xi Jinping, and the subsequent arrest nine days later of two Canadian citizens in China was widely seen as hostage diplomacy on Beijing’s part.
Entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig have now both been charged with espionage, and Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has in turn accused China of “using arbitrary detention as a tool to achieve political goals”.
According to the WSJ, the discussions between the US Department of Justice and Meng’s team picked up following the US presidential election, and Joe Biden’s defeat of incumbent Donald Trump.
The incoming Biden administration has not completely set out its foreign policy objectives, and it is unclear whether the president-elect’s stated focus on human rights will see him take a harder line on the Chinese state for its perceived abuses against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and democratic activists in Hong Kong.
Mr Biden described Xi Jinping as a “thug” during the Democratic primaries, and a campaign advertisement accused Mr Trump of being “played” by China – although the administration’s actual policy may deviate from the approach suggested during these publicity campaigns.
Dr Thomas Gift, the founding director of the centre on US politics at UCL, has suggested Mr Biden’s approach won’t differ greatly from Donald Trump’s – but will see America ally with other global partners, including Europe, to push back against China.