The arrest of a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei on charges reportedly stemming from the company's violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran opened up a new front in the already fraught relationship between Washington and Beijing.
The arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Saturday came on the same day the countries entered a 90-day tariff truce that will be marked by rapid fire negotiations on more than 100 specific trade and competitiveness issues. Experts said the timing of the arrest appeared coincidental, despite accusations from China that it was an orchestrated political stunt aimed at giving President Donald Trump additional leverage in the talks.
But while Meng's arrest did not stem directly from the talks, it made them even more complicated and sensitive. It also served as a stark reminder of the deep frustrations that underpin Washington's relationship with Beijing.
"Meng's arrest is yet another indicator that the so-called trade war is not primarily about trade," said Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center. "Trade is one aspect of a global U.S.-China competition for influence that comprises, strategic, economic, normative, ideological, and increasingly, technical arenas."
Meng was detained by Canadian authorities acting on a U.S. extradition request as she changed planes in Vancouver. The same day, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a three-hour working dinner in Buenos Aires, where they agreed to suspend any new tariffs for 90 days while negotiators try to reach a deal to halt the escalating trade war.