Amidst fears that US executives would be targeted by Chinese authorities following the arrest of the CFO of Huawei – Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, in Canada at the behest of the United States, the employees – especially people in the management positions, of US technology giant Cisco, have been advised not to travel of China except for essential reasons. Such fears among US executives were however sought to be dissuaded by Beijing.
They had received an email asking them to cut non-essential travel to China, some US-based Cisco employees told the media. The email also stated that the restriction become effective immediately.
While conceding about the existence of the email, Cisco however insisted that it was “sent in error to some employees”.
“Normal business travel to China continues,” Polly Yu, Cisco’s spokeswoman for Hong Kong and Taiwan, said and added that the email was not a general reflection of the policy of Cisco towards China.
Here is a growing anxiety among US executives that there could be some retaliation by Chinese authorities as a measure of retaliation for the “aggressive” US action driven by warnings issued by some analysts about a possible response to the arrest from China.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China “has always protected the legitimate rights and interests of foreign nationals in China and they should obey Chinese laws [when they are in China]” when asked whether China would retaliate against foreign business executives in China during an interview with the South China Morning Post.
The arrest was an “aggressive act” and it is incumbent on China to retaliate, said Jason Wright, founder of Argo Associates, a Hong Kong intelligence firm.
“Any retaliation would be carefully considered. It might take the form of an antitrust investigation, or claims of corruption. There are many ways to retaliate,” Wright said.
There are also concerns among Chinese corporate executives. They believe that the effort to erode China’s technological advances by the United States has taken an aggressive turn which is reflected in the arrest of the arrest of an individual executive of one of the most prominent Chinese tech companies. Therefore they fear that any Chinese executive from of tech companies could be targeted the next time.
Even though the arrest was aimed towards an individual, overseas travel could be curtailed by other senior Chinese executives in the next few months to reduce their business risks, said a business consultant to the media who is believed to have contact with senior executives at Huawei and a number of other mainland Chinese tech companies.
“They will be worried if they are safe to go overseas,” he said.
It is expected that the US and China would begin talks on trade later this month and it is yet mot clear what impact, if any, would there be of the arrest on the talks. The incident has been played down by the Chinese official media. The success of the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump on December 1 was lauded again by Xinhua News Agency. However, the Huawei arrest would have an impact on the trade talks, said US national security adviser John Bolton.
“This can make our trade friction more complicated. Emotions may run high,” said William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
(Adapted from SCMP.com)