I know the Huawei conflict has been discussed a bit in the US elections thread but I think it deserved its own. I found this column from Dec 2018 by Jeffrey Sachs to be quite illustrative of what's going on and the real motivations behind the case.
The U.S., not China, is the real threat to international rule of law
The United States rarely arrests senior business people, U.S. or foreign, for alleged crimes committed by their companies. Corporate managers are usually arrested for their alleged personal crimes (such as embezzlement, bribery or violence) rather than their company’s alleged malfeasance. Yes, corporate managers should be held to account for their company’s malfeasance, up to and including criminal charges, but to start this practice with a leading Chinese business person – rather than the dozens of culpable U.S. CEOs and CFOs – is a stunning provocation to the Chinese government, business community and public.
Ms. Meng is charged with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Yet, consider her arrest in the context of the large number of companies, U.S. and non-U.S., that have violated America’s sanctions against Iran and other countries. In 2011, for example, JP Morgan Chase paid $88.3 million in fines in 2011 for violating U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan. Yet Jamie Dimon wasn’t grabbed off a plane and whisked into custody.
And JP Morgan Chase was hardly alone in violating U.S. sanctions. Since 2010, the following major financial institutions paid fines for such violations: Banco do Brasil, Bank of America, Bank of Guam, Bank of Moscow, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Clearstream Banking, Commerzbank, Compass, Crédit Agricole, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, ING, Intesa Sanpaolo, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, National Bank of Pakistan, PayPal, RBS (ABN Amro), Société Générale, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Trans Pacific National Bank (now known as Beacon Business Bank), Standard Chartered and Wells Fargo.
None of the CEOs or CFOs of these sanction-busting banks were arrested and taken into custody for these violations. In all of these cases, the corporation – rather than an individual manager – was held accountable. Nor were they held accountable for the pervasive lawbreaking in the lead-up to or aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, for which the banks paid a staggering US$243 billion in fines, according to a recent tally. In light of this record, Ms. Meng’s arrest is a shocking break with practice. Yes, hold CEOs and CFOs accountable – but start at home in order to avoid hypocrisy, self-interest disguised as high principle and the risk of inciting a new global conflict.
Quite transparently, the U.S. action against Ms. Meng really seems to be part of the Trump administration’s broader attempt to undermine China’s economy by imposing tariffs, closing Western markets to Chinese high-technology exports and blocking Chinese purchases of U.S. and European technology companies. One can say, without exaggeration, that this is part of an economic war on China – and a reckless one at that.