Credit check: Canadians say the United States deserves as much credit for Two Michaels release as their own country

China’s favorability continues to decline; only one in ten Canadians have a favorable opinion of the country

October 7, 2021 – Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are adjusting to their lives in Canada after more than 1,000 days in Chinese prison.

Their release came hours after the United States postponed Meng Wanzhou’s trial. Now, new data from the nonprofit Angus Reid Institute reveals that Canadians believe America’s action helped the Michaels return home as much as any Canadian effort. Equal numbers are ready to give credit to Canada (68%) and its neighbor to the south (71%) for the liberation of Spavor and Kovrig.

The geopolitical saga began with the arrest of Meng, a senior executive at Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, in Vancouver in 2018. Spavor and Kovrig were separately arrested days later in apparent retaliation from China.

While the United States and China do not recognize the connection between Meng’s deferred financial fraud case in U.S. courts and the subsequent arrest in China, the espionage trial, and the release of Spavor and Kovrig, the timeline events provide more than enough fuel for speculation.

Regardless of who is most responsible for ending the nearly three-year saga, Canadians’ opinion of the country that imprisoned Spavor and Kovrig continues to decline. Only one in ten Canadians have a favorable opinion of China, a drop of four points from the start of the year and the lowest level of favor since 2005.

Against this backdrop, three-quarters of Canadians (76%) would prefer Canada to prioritize the rule of law and human rights in the country’s future relationship with China rather than any potential for trade or investment. .

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More key findings:

  • Three in five Canadians (58%) believe Canada should have intervened earlier in the Meng case.
  • Half of Canadians (51%) have a very negative opinion of China.
  • Those who believe Canada should prioritize human rights and the rule of law in its dealings with China have increased by 14 percentage points since 2019.

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating statistical data, research and policy analysis to the public. accessible and impartial on economics, political science, philanthropy, administration, national and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.


Part 1: Who do Canadians credit for Michaels’ release?

Part two: China’s favorability hits a new low

Part 1: Who do Canadians credit for Michaels’ release?

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested by Chinese authorities in December 2018, apparently in response to the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou nine days earlier at Vancouver International Airport. (China continues to deny any connection between the two arrests.) The Two Michaels were ultimately charged with espionage; Meng, meanwhile, was being held by Canadian authorities because she was wanted in the United States, where she was accused of financial fraud.

Over 1,000 days later, Kovrig and Spavor were released and allowed to return to Canada. Hours earlier, Meng had reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the US government and the Canadian court dropped his extradition case, allowing him to return to China. While China has consistently denied arresting Kovrig and Spavor in response to Meng’s own arrest, critics have called the detention of Canadians “hostage diplomacy.”

Canadian officials say they lobbied for months to secure the release of the two men before Meng’s case was resolved, but Canadians themselves give about as much credit to their neighbor to the south as they do. ‘to their own government. A quarter say Canada (26%) and three in ten say the United States (28%) deserves “a lot of credit” for the release of Spavor and Kovrig. A third say Canada deserves “no credit”:

There are major political divisions over the praise Canada deserves. Those who voted Conservative in last month’s election are much more reluctant to give Canada credit. Half of CCP voters (51%) believe their own country is not responsible for Michaels’ release. Liberal voters are the most likely to say Canada deserves “a lot of credit”:

Although the United States has also denied any connection between the Meng case and the release of Spavor and Kovrig, Canadians were free to leave just hours after the Huawei executive’s case was postponed by the states. -United. In this context, three in five Canadians (58%) believe that Canada should have intervened earlier in Meng’s case, including 35% who say that the country absolutely should have done so.

The desire to act sooner is strongest among CCP voters, half of whom (47%) say Canada absolutely should have intervened sooner. Across the political spectrum, leading members of the liberal universe, including parliamentarians and diplomats such as former Liberal Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, have called on the current Trudeau government to intervene more. early. Given this, perhaps it is not surprising that a good half (52%) of recent Liberal voters also believe the Canadian government should have acted sooner.

The implications of the Two Michaels affair for Canada-China relations, and Huawei’s business relationship here, remain to be seen, but Canadians are divided over what Meng’s postponement means for the relationship. Canada with the United States. relationship is strong (29%) as those who say it is weak (28%), while most are unsure. Liberal voters have a more optimistic view of the Canada-U.S. Relationship, while a plurality of CCP voters think the relationship is bad:

Part two: China’s favorability hits a new low

Canadians’ opinion of China continues to decline. Only one in ten (10%) say they currently have a favorable or very favorable view of the country:

Canadian perceptions of China have declined sharply over the past three years. Before the Michaels’ detention, two in five respondents (38%) had a favorable opinion of China. The public also seems to make a clear distinction between China and Taiwan, the independent country China wants to annex. Half (49%) of Canadians have a favorable opinion of Taiwan.

Before the Michaels-Meng saga, Canada and China were discussing a free trade agreement. Initiated in 2016, the talks were dropped last year as Spavor and Kovrig remained in jail. It now appears that Ottawa is considering new measures to counter potential economic threats to Canada’s national security, including imposing requirements for foreign investment and takeovers – two long-standing concerns in trade relations. of Canada with China.

The economy is a secondary consideration for most Canadians when it comes to China. Only a quarter (24%) say trade and investment opportunities should be Canada’s top priority when it comes to dealing with the world’s second-largest economy. Instead, three-quarters (76%) say human rights and the rule of law should be more important. This is a 14 point increase from the percentage of Canadians who said this in January 2019, a month after Spavor and Kovrig were incarcerated.

While at least seven in ten people in every province believe human rights should trump trade considerations when Canada deals with China, those in Quebec (28%) and Newfoundland and Labrador Labrador (29%) are more willing to let trade trump the rule. of the law:

Demographically, opinions vary slightly. Men value trade with China more than women, but at least seven in ten from every demographic group believe human rights should be Canada’s number one consideration:

Survey methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from September 29 to October 3, 2021 with a representative random sample of 5,011 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum members. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was sponsored and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, sex, region, level of education and other demographics, Click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.

For the full questionnaire, click here.


Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 [email protected] @shachikurl

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