A few British hard-liners will hardly make UK’s policy anti-China

By Dong Yifan Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/14 18:13:40

China UK flag Photo: GT

Recently, a few British conservative politicians have been echoing the US' anti-China rhetoric in a high profile manner. 

A case of this is Tom Tugendhat, chairman of British Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who articulated that "students used to empower state censorship could also be threatened with removal  - putting at risk the fees paid by China's new wealthy, turning the pressure back on the regime."

Tugendhat is a radical anti-China politician in the Conservative Party, who led a group of Conservative members of Parliament that established the China Research Group in April, which aimed at reassessing the UK's relationship with China amid concerns. He also has close contacts with the notorious neoconservative British anti-China think tank Henry Jackson Society. After last governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten called China's national security legislation for Hong Kong "a betrayal of the Hong Kong people" and said that the Chinese government is "taking advantage of" the pandemic over Hong Kong affairs, Tugendhat echoed swiftly, "Chris Patten is right. We need to… stand up for a democracy in China."

Given the extraordinary pressure the current UK government faces, including the epidemic, sluggish economy, divided society, mired Brexit process, a tendency of playing tough with China has emerged in British foreign policies to divert public attention. Under the pressure of some politicians from the Conservative Party, the UK government is drawing up plans to totally exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from the country's 5G networks by 2023. The UK also joined the US, with two other US allies of Australia and Canada, to issue a harsh statement in May to criticize China for imposing the new security law for Hong Kong. 

At the same time, for its all-round strategy of containing China, the US is trying to draw the UK to its side. US Republican Congressman Michael McCaul has recently called for US-UK cooperation to confront the actions of the Communist Party of China "a similar spirit to the nations' joint endeavor in the Cold War," Newsweek reported on June 9. 

The US is making use of the UK's current dilemma in the face of COVID-19, the latter's wish to divert public attention and its twisted logic of continuously pretending to be Hong Kong's colonist, to insert influence on British political circles over China policies.  

Yet once the UK picks sides between China and the US, that would mean a completely abandonment of its "Global Britain" policy which had been designed for post-Brexit era. 

The UK is seeking to develop economic and trade ties with the world, especially with Asia-Pacific countries after Brexit, trying to maintain its leading position in global issues. As the second largest economy in the world, China holds important keys to help empower "Global Britain."

Indeed, the UK is one of China's main investment destinations in Europe. It is unimaginable that Beijing and London would decouple. 

Washington trampled on international order and institutions after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which obviously conflicts with multilateralism advocated in "Global Britain." 

Therefore, if the UK wants to have a place in the international arena and maximize its influence and soft power, it must balance delicately among China, the US, Europe and the Asia-Pacific. At the same time, it must focus on multilateralism and proactively participate in global cooperation in digital economy, health governance, climate change and other aspects. All of these important issues are inseparable from practical cooperation between China and the UK. 

The rise of some British hard-liners and the swaying China policy of the British government imply that the UK's attitude toward China is still under the influence of colonialist ideology. In the face of challenges both at home and abroad, the UK will keep seeking scapegoat in the post-pandemic era. Yet in the highly globalized world, the UK will not disregard its own interests and make China, which is a threat to no one, an enemy.

The author is a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. [email protected]

Posted in: VIEWPOINT,CHINA-EUROPE

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