Just to be absolutely clear, I am whatever the polar opposite of “enthusiastic” is when it comes to documenting every twist and turn in the U.S.-China trade narrative which at this point seems to have evolved (or maybe “devolved” is better) into a daily tug-of-war between, on one hand, reciprocal kidnappings and, on the other, incessant headlines about how many soybeans China is buying.
I have absolutely no idea what is going on behind the scenes and contrary to what you might be inclined to think if you’re inexplicably reading each one of the dozens of stories that are published every morning about the above-mentioned tug-of-war, neither does anybody else.
The sheer blatant absurdity in all of this is captured very succinctly in the following headline which, if you had just woken up from a three-year nap and didn’t have any idea who is President or what’s been going on, you would surely think was from The Onion:
That is a real headline and the worst part about being someone who hasn’t been asleep for the past three years, is that it’s immediately recognizable as something that might in fact be real because after all, Dennis Rodman is now part of the geopolitical narrative thanks to his cameo at the already surreal Trump-Kim summit Singapore where the best rebounder in NBA history showed up wearing a MAGA hat and a Potcoin.com t-shirt.
Well, now, Michael Spavor is being interrogated by Chinese authorities for “suspected activities harming state security”.
That news immediately raises the following series of questions: Wait, who is Michael Spavor? And what does he have to do with Dennis Rodman? And why are we talking about Dennis Rodman again? And then, naturally, what universe is this we’re living in?
The answer to that latter question remains unclear, but as to the others, Spavor is a Canadian citizen, known for “escorting” foreigners into North Korea. Among those foreigners: Dennis Rodman.
Spavor is now the second Canadian citizen being investigated by China. The first is obviously former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who was (basically) kidnapped by the Chinese in retaliation for Canada’s ill-advised decision to go along with U.S. plans to (basically) kidnap Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou.
We’ve documented the Meng story extensively here. She was of course nabbed in Vancouver on December 1st literally at the exact same time as Trump was having dinner with Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires. She went free on $7.5 million bail on Monday and Trump is now trying to figure out whether he can intervene on her behalf in the interest of “national security”, which is itself highly absurd, because the whole reason she was arrested in the first place was for her alleged role in evading sanctions on Iran in her official capacity at Huawei, which is at the forefront of U.S. efforts to protect national security. This entire thing is a self-referential insanity loop, which makes it completely consistent with everything else Trump touches.
As mind-bogglingly silly as all of the above most assuredly is, it gets even sillier the more details you read. For instance, Canada was informed about Kovrig’s detention when Ottawa received an actual fax from China, which I guess means their carrier pigeons were busy or else their Morse code machine wasn’t working this week.
It’s obvious (although nobody from Canada or China will admit it) that Kovrig’s arrest was retaliation for Meng’s detention, but less obvious is whether Spavor, Dennis Rodman’s Canadian tour guide on trips to North Korea, is connected to Kovrig.
Spavor has a Twitter account (of course) which lists his location as Pyongyang and he was last “seen” tweeting a picture of some random guy riding a bicycle in Sariwon.
After seeing us filming the streets of Sariwon, the man on the bicycle gave us a courteous smile as he rode by our crew. Visiting Sariwon is always a pleasant surprise just walking down the streets, waving hello and people watching can make my day
📷|… https://t.co/lLxqvMqD9w pic.twitter.com/6DRcyfAnKx
— Michael Spavor (@mpspavor) December 9, 2018
As you can see, Spavor was in great spirits on Sunday and another weekend tweet suggests he was en route to Seoul. Suffice to say he never made it. Maybe that shady person wearing the gray blazer in the background turned out to be one of Xi’s intelligence operatives.
The overarching message here appears to be that if you are Canadian, you shouldn’t be anywhere near China, because until such a time as Canada frees Beijing’s Meng, various and sundry Kovrigs and Spavors are subject to being arrested on the spot.
For his part, Guy Saint-Jacques, a former ambassador to China (and a regular Sherlock Holmes, apparently) had this to offer (and this quote is all over the place, serving as an anchor for multiple media outlets’ coverage of this wild farce):
There’s no coincidence with China. In this case, it is all related in my view to the strategy presently pursued by the Chinese leadership to put as much political pressure as possible on the Canadian government and it’s related, obviously, to the case of Mrs. Meng.
What isn’t as “obvious” is how we’ve reached a point in international affairs where Canada and China are engaged in a kidnap contest involving, on one hand, a high profile Chinese executive who just coughed up $7.5 million dollars for the privilege of awaiting a possible extradition to the U.S. from one of the two multi-million dollar homes her family owns in Vancouver, and on the other, a former Canadian diplomat and a guy with connections to Dennis Rodman.
Actually, I take that back. It is obvious how we got here…
This is not photoshopped. pic.twitter.com/wUjSjyVDDz
— Walter White (@heisenbergrpt) September 26, 2018