The issue of the Canadians was expected to come up as top Biden administration officials met their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage starting on Thursday. Friends and relatives of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig have called on President Biden and Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to take action to secure their release.
American officials said on Friday that they were “deeply alarmed” by China’s decision to go forward with the trials of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with Canada in calling for their immediate release,” a spokesman for the United States Embassy in Beijing said in a statement.
Any compromise with Beijing could be elusive, as China has not shown signs of backing down, instead using its prosecution of the two men to project an image of strength and demand that the United States withdraw its extradition request for Ms. Meng.
“Beijing is making it clear that the two Michaels will be put on trial with Chinese characteristics: closed to the public and to the media,” said Diana Fu, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. “Its actions leave little doubt about who the ultimate decider of the Canadians’ fate will be — the Chinese Communist Party, not Biden, not Trudeau.”
The imprisonment of the two men has spurred calls in Canada for tougher action against China. According to a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute, a leading polling company, only 14 percent of Canadians have a favorable view of China. A majority view the Chinese government’s freeing the two Canadians as a prerequisite to resetting relations.
“There is a backlash against China in Canada, and the trial will only harden attitudes,” said Gordon Houlden, director emeritus of the University of Alberta China Institute. He added that the case of the two Michaels underlined the limited leverage of a middle power like Canada when faced with an economic and political behemoth like China.
Legal experts and human rights activists have denounced China’s treatment of the Canadians, accusing Chinese officials of resorting to “hostage diplomacy.” The two men, held in separate prisons in northern China, have been largely cut off from the world and at times forced to go months without visits from diplomats. They have had limited access to defense lawyers.
The Chinese government has signaled that it will soon begin trials of two Canadian men held in China for more than two years on vague charges of espionage, escalating a punitive campaign against Canada.
China plans to go forward with the trials, Canadian officials said, despite global pressure to release the two men, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a business consultant, who have been held largely in isolation since they were detained in 2018.
The prosecution of the two men is widely seen as retribution for Canada’s decision in 2018 to arrest Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, at the request of the United States.The start of the Mr. Spavor’s trial, on Friday, coincides with the first meeting of senior American and Chinese officials since President Biden took office in January, amid tensions over technology, defense and other issues.
Mr. Kovrig’s trial is to start Monday,
Here’s what to expect.
Politics will hang over the trials.
Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor have been caught up in a broader geopolitical struggle involving China, Canada and the United States.
increasingly aggressive foreign policy in recent years, and experts say the detention of the two Canadians is part of a campaign by Beijing to show that it will not give in to demands from Western countries.
Officials in Canada and the United States have accused China of holding the two Canadians as a bargaining chip to win the release of Ms. Meng, the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei and one of China’s most prominent businessmen.
Vina Nadjibulla, the wife of Mr. Kovrig, said in a telephone interview. “This is the moment. We are running out of time.”
Dan Bilefsky contributed reporting. Albee Zhang contributed research.
LONDON — Having cast off from the European Union, Britain wants to bind itself closer to the United States in a perilous world, according to a long-awaited blueprint for its post-Brexit foreign policy, released on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented the document — which grew out of a lengthy review of security, defense, development and foreign policies — as an argument for how Britain will stay relevant globally. One way, he said, is to help the Biden administration face down challenges from Russia and China.
“In all our endeavors, the United States will be our greatest ally and a uniquely close partner in defense, intelligence and security,” Mr. Johnson said in Parliament. “We will stand up for our values as well as for our interests.”
The prime minister and his allies have long argued that Brexit would liberate Britain to act as an agile maritime power on the world stage — a concept they called “Global Britain,” in language more suited to marketing than diplomacy. This 100-page report was an effort to put some meat on the concept.
a diplomatic backlash.
“It is structurally inevitable, given our other relationships, that we should turn to America,” said Simon Fraser, a former head of Britain’s Foreign Office. “For Biden, that is a big opportunity.” Still, he added, the review was a “serious effort to think through the risks and opportunities.”
Critics said some of Mr. Johnson’s initiatives seemed grandiose for a country that is now essentially a midsize power off the coast of Europe. The deployment of the carrier to Asia, for example, harkens to Britain’s imperial past, as does the government’s emphasis on rebuilding its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The prime minister took note of that criticism, insisting, “Global Britain is not a reflection of old obligations, still less a vainglorious gesture, but a necessity for the safety and prosperity of the British people in the decades ahead.”
abandoned by the United States after former President Donald J. Trump took office.
The transition from Mr. Trump to President Biden had once seemed fraught with risk for Britain. Unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden opposed Brexit and has displayed little interest in pursuing a trade agreement with Britain. Mr. Trump had dangled a trade deal with the United States as a reward for Brexit.
But Mr. Johnson has worked hard to cultivate Mr. Biden, announcing policies on climate change and global health, as well as military spending, which dovetail with the priorities of the new president.
In November, Britain will play host to the United Nations’ climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. That is expected to give Mr. Biden a stage to showcase the renewed American commitment to the Paris climate accord. Britain’s military spending is a fillip to NATO at a time when Mr. Biden also hopes to shore up the alliance.
But there are still places where Britain and the United States could part company. The lack of emphasis on Britain’s relationship with the European Union will disappoint some in the Biden administration, who are trying to revive international cooperation after the unilateral approach of the Trump years.
Britain’s decision to expand its nuclear arsenal may also cause tensions. In its last defense review in 2015, the government disclosed the numbers of missiles and warheads that it planned to carry on submarines. In this review, Britain said it would no longer give numbers for its operational stockpile.
“The decision to reduce the level of transparency on the U.K. nuclear stockpile will not go down well with U.S. officials who want to signal an openness to more progress on nuclear disarmament,” said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank in London. “The U.K. decision on this would have been easier to sell to the Trump administration.”
RIO DE JANEIRO — China was on the defensive in Brazil.
The Trump administration had been warning allies across the globe to shun Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, denouncing the company as a dangerous extension of China’s surveillance system.
Brazil, ready to build an ambitious 5G wireless network worth billions of dollars, openly took President Trump’s side, with the Brazilian president’s son — an influential member of Congress, himself — vowing in November to create a secure system “without Chinese espionage.”
Then pandemic politics upended everything.
With Covid-19 deaths rising to their highest levels yet, and a dangerous new virus variant stalking Brazil, the nation’s communications minister went to Beijing in February, met with Huawei executives at their headquarters and made a very unusual request of a telecommunication company.
“I took advantage of the trip to ask for vaccines, which is what everyone is clamoring for,” said the minister, Fábio Faria, recounting his meeting with Huawei.
hoarding many millions of doses for themselves — has offered a diplomatic and public relations opening that China has readily seized.
closely aligned with Mr. Trump, disparaged the Chinese vaccine while it was undergoing clinical trials in Brazil, and shut down an effort by the health ministry to order 45 million doses.
“The Brazilian people WON’T BE ANYONE’S GUINEA PIG,” he wrote on Twitter.
But with Mr. Trump gone and Brazilian hospitals overwhelmed by a surge of infections, Mr. Bolsonaro’s government scrambled to mend fences with the Chinese and asked them to expedite tens of millions of vaccine shipments, as well as the ingredients to mass-produce the shots in Brazil.
The precise impact of the vaccine request to Huawei and its inclusion in the 5G auction is unclear, but the timing is striking, part of a stark change in Brazil’s stance toward China. The president, his son and the foreign minister abruptly stopped criticizing China, while cabinet officials with inroads to the Chinese, like Mr. Faria, worked furiously to get new vaccine shipments approved. Millions of doses have arrived in recent weeks.
“With the desperation in Latin America for vaccines, this creates a perfect position for the Chinese,” said Evan Ellis, a professor of Latin American studies at the United States Army War College, who specializes on the region’s relationship with China.
Britain and Germany — Huawei has mounted a well-timed charm offensive in Brazil.
said in a message on Twitter announcing the gift.
Before the first vaccines rolled off assembly lines, Huawei seemed to be losing the 5G contest in Brazil, knocked to the sidelines by the Trump administration’s campaign against it. Latin America’s largest nation was only months away from holding an auction to create its 5G network, a sweeping upgrade that will make wireless connections faster and more accessible.
Huawei, along with two European competitors, Nokia and Ericsson, aspired to play a leading role in partnering with local telecommunications companies to build the infrastructure. But the Chinese company needed the green light from Brazilian regulators to take part.
The Trump administration moved aggressively to thwart it. During a visit to Brazil last November, Keith Krach, then the State Department’s top official for economic policy, called Huawei an industry pariah that needed to be locked out of 5G networks.
“The Chinese Communist Party cannot be trusted with our most sensitive data and intellectual property,” he said in a Nov. 11 speech in Brazil, during which he referred to Huawei as “the backbone of the CCP surveillance state.”
Brazil’s foreign ministry said Brazil “supports the principles contained in the Clean Network proposal made by the United States.”
Eduardo Bolsonaro, a son of the president, who headed the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Congress, said in a tweet that Brazil would back Washington’s push.
China had already faced scorn in some corners of Latin America early in the pandemic, as concerns that it had been careless in allowing the virus to slip beyond its borders took root. Beijing’s reputation took an additional hit in Peru, after exporting cheap, unreliable Covid tests that became an early misstep in the country’s efforts to rein in contagion.
But China found an opportunity to shift the narrative early this year, as its CoronaVac became the cheapest and most accessible inoculation for countries in the developing world.
With the pandemic under control in China, Sinovac, the maker of CoronaVac, began shipping millions of doses abroad, offering free samples to 53 countries and exporting it to 22 nations that placed orders.
What You Need to Know About the Vaccine Rollout
As the first doses of CoronaVac were administered in Latin America, China took a swipe at wealthy nations that were doing little to guarantee prompt access to vaccines in poorer countries.
said in a speech late last month. “We hope that all countries that have the capability will join hands and make due contributions.”
In late February, as the first doses of China’s vaccines were being administered in Brazil, the country’s telecom regulatory agency announced rules for the 5G auction, which is scheduled to take place in July, that do not exclude Huawei.
The change in Brazil reflects how the campaign against Huawei driven by Mr. Trump has lost momentum since his defeat in the November election. Britain said it would not ban equipment made by Huawei from its new high-speed 5G wireless network. Germany has signaled a similar approach to Britain’s.
Thiago de Aragão, a Brasília-based political risk consultant who focuses on China’s relationships in Latin America, said two factors saved Huawei from a humiliating defeat in Brazil. The election of President Biden, who has harshly criticized Brazil’s environmental record, made the Brazilian government unenthusiastic about being in lock step with Washington, he said, and China’s ability to make or break the early phase of Brazil’s vaccination effort made the prospect of angering the Chinese by banning Huawei untenable.
“They were facing certain death by October and November and now they’re back in the game,” Mr. de Aragão said of Huawei.
The request for vaccines by the Brazilian communications minister, Mr. Faria, occurred as it became clear Beijing held the keys to accelerate or throttle the vaccination campaign in Brazil, where more than 270,000 people have died of Covid-19.
Feb. 11, Mr. Faria posted a letter from China’s ambassador to Brazil in which the ambassador noted the request and wrote that “I give this matter great importance.”
In a statement, Huawei did not say it would provide vaccines directly but said the company could help with “communication in an open and transparent manner in a topic involving the two governments.”
China is also the dominant supplier of vaccines in Chile, which has mounted the most aggressive inoculation campaign in Latin America, and it is shipping millions of doses to Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.
In a sign of China’s growing leverage, Paraguay, where Covid-19 cases are surging, has struggled to gain access to Chinese vaccines because it is among the few countries in the world that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.
In an interview, Paraguay’s foreign minister, Euclides Acevedo, said his country is seeking to negotiate access to CoronaVac through intermediary countries. Then he made an extraordinary overture to China, which has spent years trying to get the last few countries that recognize Taiwan to switch their alliances.
“We would hope the relationship does not end at vaccines, but takes on another dimension in the economic and cultural spheres,” he said. “We must be open to every nation as we seek cooperation and to do so we must have a pragmatic vision.”