Credit check

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

China’s popularity 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 life in Canada after more than 1,000 days in a Chinese prison.

Their release came hours after the US postponed Meng Wanzhou’s court case. Now, new data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute reveals that Canadians believe the US action helped the Michaels get home as much as any Canadian effort. An equal number are ready to give credit to Canada (68%) and its southern neighbor (71%) for the release 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 arrested separately days later in apparent retaliation by China.

Although the United States and China do not recognize the connection between Meng’s deferred financial fraud case in US courts and the subsequent arrest in China, the espionage trial and the release of Spavor and Kovrig, the timing events provides 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 wane. Only one in ten Canadians have a favorable view of China, down four points from the start of this year and the lowest level of favorable views since 2005.

Against this backdrop, three-quarters of Canadians (76%) would prefer that Canada prioritize the rule of law and human rights in the country’s future relationship with China over any trade or development opportunities. ‘investment.

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More key results:

  • Three in five Canadians (58%) believe that Canada should have intervened sooner in the Meng case.
  • Half of Canadians (51%) have a very unfavorable view of China.
  • Those who believe Canada should prioritize human rights and the rule of law in its relations 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, nonprofit, nonpartisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting, and disseminating accessible and unbiased statistical data, research, and analysis to the public. policies on economics, political science, philanthropy, administration, domestic and international affairs, and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.


Part One: Who do Canadians credit for releasing the Michaels?

Part 2: China’s popularity hits a new low

Part One: Who do Canadians credit for releasing the Michaels?

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested by Chinese authorities in December 2018, in apparent answer the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou nine days earlier at Vancouver International Airport. (China keep denying no connection between the two arrests.) Both Michaels were eventually charged with spying; Meng, meanwhile, was being held by Canadian authorities because she was wanted in the United States, where she was charged with financial fraud.

More than 1,000 days later, Kovrig and Spavor were to free 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 Canadians’ detention a “hostage diplomacy”.

Canadian authorities say they had lobbied for the two men’s release for months before Meng’s case was resolved, but Canadians themselves give their southern neighbor the same credit as their own government. A quarter say Canada (26%) and three in ten say the United States (28%) deserve “a lot of credit” for the release of Spavor and Kovrig. A third say Canada deserves “no credit at all”:

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

Although the United States also refuse no connection between the Meng case and the release of Spavor and Kovrig, the Canadians were free to leave just hours after the Huawei executive’s case was postponed by the United States. In this context, three out of five Canadians (58%) believe that Canada should have intervened in the Meng case. cases earlier, including 35% who say the country absolutely should have.

The desire to act sooner is strongest among CPC voters, with half (47%) saying Canada absolutely should have acted sooner. On the other side of the political spectrum, leading figures from the Liberal universe, including parliamentarians and diplomats such as former Liberal Foreign Secretary Lloyd Axworthy called on the current Trudeau government to intervene sooner. Given this, it is perhaps unsurprising that half (52%) of recent Liberal voters also believe the Canadian government should have acted sooner.

The implications of the Two Michaels case for Canada-China relations, and Huawei’s business relationships here, remains to be seen, but Canadians are divided as to what Meng’s postponement means for Canada’s relationship with the United States. As many people say the relationship between the two countries is strong (29%) than those who say it is weak (28%), while most are unsure. Liberal voters have the best opinion of the Canada-US relationship, while a plurality of CCP voters believe the relationship is bad:

Part 2: China’s popularity hits a new low

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

Canadians’ perception of China has deteriorated considerably over the past three years. Prior to the Michaels’ detention, two in five respondents (38%) said they had a favorable view of China. The public also seems to make a clear distinction between China and Taiwan, the independent country that 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 abandoned last year while Spavor and Kovrig remained in prison. It now appears that Ottawa is consider new measures to counter potential economic threats to Canada’s national security, including by imposing requirements for foreign investment and takeovers – both long-standing concerns in Canada’s trade relationship 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 dealing with the world’s second largest economy. Instead, three-quarters (76%) say human rights and the rule of law should be more important. That’s a 14-point increase from the percentage of Canadians who said that in January 2019, a month after Spavor and Kovrig were jailed.

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

Demographically, opinions vary slightly. Men prioritize trade with China at a higher rate than women, but at least seven in ten of each demographic group believe that human rights should be Canada’s first 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 adult Canadian members of Angus ReidForum. 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 self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, 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 @shachikurl