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Hal Brands

Don’t Let China Take the World Hostage

By detaining a Canadian diplomat after the Huawei arrest, Beijing is losing its best relationships with the West.

Take no prisoners.

Take no prisoners.

Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Discussions of what China’s rise will mean for the world often take on an abstract, impersonal quality. We use terms like “international order,” “geopolitical competition” and “balance of power.” Yet the case of Michael Kovrig, the Canadian ex-diplomat who has been unjustly detained in China for nearly two months, reminds us that the rise of a brash authoritarian power comes with profoundly human consequences.

No less, this episode shows how Xi Jinping’s China risks alienating those foreign observers who have worked hardest to build connections and understanding between Beijing and the outside world.