Is UK trying to launch another opium war against China?

By Li Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/7/5 16:18:40

HMS Illustrious, a light aircraft carrier of the British Royal Navy, and affectionately known as "Lusty," is towed out of Portsmouth Harbour in Portsmouth, southern England on her last journey to Turkey in 2016 where she has been sold for scrap. Photo: AFP

The Financial Times (FT) published a report titled "Britain's armed forces pivot east to face growing China threat" on Saturday. British Conservative Party politician Tobias Ellwood said the UK needs to work out how to deal with China. British politicians also recommended a more visible UK presence in China's "sphere of influence" and to work more closely with allies on "China's doorstep."

The UK and some other Western countries have long maintained their ideological prejudice against China. They are accustomed to demonizing China while they bask in their old colonial characterizations. In the 21st century, it seems hard for the West to reexamine its status amid a rapidly changing world order. 

The UK has been opportunistic with China, swinging from a "golden era" a few years ago to now regarding China as a "growing threat." But how can China impose security threats on a kingdom far away on the edges of the Atlantic Ocean? The UK is foisting its colonialism and expansionist mind-set upon China.

The UK is trying to increase its military presence in China's "sphere of influence," but this will turn out to be untenable.

First, it is not the 19th century anymore. China's military forces are developing rapidly - China's navy has grown by the equivalent tonnage to that of the whole Royal Navy over the past five years, according to the FT report. Second, China does not have ambitions to subvert world order and control various regions. China's development has also brought real benefits to countries on its "doorstep."

The Royal Navy has announced that it will permanently deploy a few hundred Royal Marine commandos "east of Suez." Is the UK going to send its aircraft carriers near China? Somewhere near Hong Kong? Is it going to launch a new opium war against China? 

The UK indeed needs to figure out how to deal with China. But it also needs to understand that this is not a world all about power politics competing for "spheres of influence". The East Asian countries, led by China, have embraced decades of rapid development and prosperity. However, it seems that the UK and some other Western countries have made no progress in their thinking. Facing an upcoming Asian Century, they are clamoring for a "fundamental reset" of China-UK relations. But unreasonably confronting China cannot help the UK to win back its old glory.

The UK is merely fawning over the US. When the US allowed the UK to develop a relatively close relationship with China, the UK felt it had built a "golden era" of China-UK ties. But now, the US, acting as the UK's master, is demanding the latter show its loyalty. Therefore, the UK has trimmed its sails and issued threats to China.

The UK's opportunistic calculations will only narrow its prospect in the international community. It will lose its diplomatic autonomy as a great power, as it has blindly followed the US, thus further dwarfing itself. The UK is about to leave the EU. It should make itself stronger and more independent instead of being a US' henchman like Australia. Will the UK have a future by turning itself into another Australia?

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