The Chinese have a saying: “Kill a chicken to scare the monkeys.” The idea is that when you have powerful enemies, you can single out a weak player for severe public punishment. The enemies conclude that they could be the next one singled out and they decide to keep their activities at a low boil and not challenge the regime. The victim is an example to the rest.

This article recounts the real-world case of such a sacrifice. Meng Hongwei was the vice minister of China’s Ministry of Public Security, and was also the head of Interpol, the multilateral organization through which police departments share information on international fugitives and conspiracies and coordinate manhunts and extraditions.

Recently, Meng returned to China and immediately disappeared. His last act was to text an image of a knife to his wife in Paris as a sign that his life was in jeopardy.

Subsequently, it was revealed that Meng is in the custody of Chinese security services on various charges. He has resigned his positions at Interpol and the Ministry of Security.

While his fate is uncertain, his arrest was a familiar turn of events. Chinese President Xi Jinping was recently named dictator for life of China. His power is near absolute, but he has many enemies due to failing Chinese economic performance and an out-of-control trade and currency war with the U.S. In Xi’s eyes, Meng was a convenient “chicken” who could be sacrificed to scare the “monkeys” surrounding Xi.

This type of arrest happens every day in China, but Meng’s arrest attracted more attention because he is a prominent international official, not just a Chinese official. This arbitrary arrest and persecution should be a warning to Western business leaders that China has no stable rule of law and that its currency, bond markets and investment opportunities cannot be trusted. This loss of trust may account in part for the recent collapses in Chinese stock and credit markets.

Arrest will not solve that problem. The Chinese economy will get worse from here.


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