The UK’s Prime Minister has made a clear statement of intent with respect to China and international trade, seeking and preferring to expand them and see Britain as a destination of Chinese investment as part of his preferred Indo-Pacific ‘tilt’.
The UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy Command Paper, published last week, marks a change in The UK’s geostrategy and (re) positioning in the wake of Brexit and Anglo-Sino, American-Chinese and Anglo-American-Russian international relations.
This ‘Cold War’ 2.0 is of critical importance, but it must be questioned whether The UK and her Prime Minister have judged this correctly, in the face of internal UK opposition and The USA’s rivalry with and position on China.
In essence, The UK is trying to keep both The USA as her ally and China as an economic and potential political and military superpower onside simultaneously.
Whilst there is an important rationale and justification to seek to reassert self-reliance, sufficiency and an independent defence, military and security capability and capacity, and boost the economy and trade through bi-lateral global deals, there is wise counsel which suggests that certain elements at least may be a mistake and not full thought through.
From an economic and trade perspective, Asia is the region of greatest potential growth, and UK participation in Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact are welcome moves; as is a ‘global Britain’ presenting itself on the global stage as a force for good.
We feel that there are however more strategic, imaginative and sustainable ways to benefit from an Asian focus whilst not bowing to or sacrificing too much on the alter of Chinese power. The UK and her Prime Minister cannot sustainably be Janus like to looking to critique and attack China whilst benefiting from trade, especially since China are not nor ever will play by the same rules, especially when mixed messages are pierceable concerning The UK’s defence capabilities, ca[city and cuts, with global aspirations.
For readers who wish to read more, the following resources may be of interest.
Ministry of Defence Integrated Review Command Paper
Defence in a Competitive Age