Britain’s foreign secretary says opposing Beijing goes against London’s ‘national interests’, but Washington has other ideas
By Timur Fomenkopolitical analyst
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly argued in a recent keynote that trying to “isolate china“would constitute a”betrayal of [the UK’s] national interests” and spoke out against a “new cold war.”
Although he spoke out against Beijing on a range of issues, including Hong Kong and alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Cleverly’s underlying message was: “No major global problem – from climate change to pandemic prevention, from economic stability to nuclear proliferation – cannot be solved without China. »
The speech is arguably the most pacifist delivered by a British official under the government of Rishi Sunak, who opened his post as prime minister by declaring the end of the “Golden age” relations between the two countries and calling for “robust pragmatism” in the management of Beijing. Despite this, British foreign policy shifted towards an increasingly hawkish one and Sunak skipped the chance to meet Xi Jinping at the G20 summit, as backbench hardliners including disgraced former Prime Minister Liz Truss and China hawk Iain Duncan Smith, are calling for a much more confrontational approach. approach.
Can the UK reasonably improve its relationship with China to suit its own national interests? The answer is no, it is not possible, because in the end it is not Great Britain that decides. He has been unable to demonstrate any significant degree of independence in his opposition to US China policy, and when Washington says jump, London asks, “how far? The Americans have helped cultivate a hostile media climate combined with the constant promotion of ultra-hawkish figures, which severely limits how the UK can deepen its relationship with China.
The United States exerts influence on its allies by manipulating their “civil society,” – the paradigm of public debate and orientation – towards its objectives. It does this by using its resources, groups, funding, NGOs, think tanks and associate journalists to establish a news cycle that works for it, highlighting issues that suit its program and minimizing those that do not. Through this method, Washington was able to weaponize Western public opinion and turn it against China, creating a hostile climate regardless of what the government of the given country might intend, and therefore changing the political incentives for all people. involved.
For example, by militarizing the Xinjiang issue and misrepresenting it as “genocide,” the United States was able to exploit the West’s human rights outrage”civil societyto pressure governments and legitimize foreign policy changes. The UK, which was pro-China in its foreign policy and public disposition in recent years, is one of the examples of how such manipulation and direct pressure has been a game-changer. While Boris Johnson’s government initially argued for economic engagement with China, the ensuing hostile climate has created a storm of media negativity towards Beijing and emboldened politicians who vehemently oppose it, such as Iain Duncan Smith or Liz Truss.
It is precisely because of these circumstances that London has found it nearly impossible to pursue its own independent engagement with Beijing, and has capitulated over every public disagreement it has had with the United States over China policy. For example, the government wanted Huawei to participate in the UK’s 5G network and cleared it as safe, only to then turn around due to US pressure and suddenly label it “national security risk.” Similarly, the government approved the Chinese takeover of the Newport wafer factory in Wales, but a year later gave in to Washington’s demands and vetoed the sale. , which financially ruined the factory and put jobs at risk.
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The British government does not control the terms of any engagement it would like to have with Beijing, and even Rishi Sunak himself, although privately more accommodating than someone like Liz Truss, is openly open to the idea of to use China-bashing and paranoia for political purposes. when he has the chance. It is a feature of the post-Boris Johnson political consensus within the Conservative Party. Likewise, London pursues a militarist, “gunboat diplomacy” position by participating in the United States”Indo-Pacific » Beijing’s containment strategy.
These conditions probably explain why China currently views engagement with the UK as a waste of time. So while Cleverly’s speech may be diplomatically positive, it is unlikely to be followed up with concrete results as an extremely hostile media environment and warmongering agitators will continue to derail the relationship where possible.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.