UK diplomacy could be more decent, predictable as Johnson announces to resign
Published: Jul 07, 2022 10:34 PM Updated: Jul 07, 2022 10:22 PM
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions in London, Britain, Jan. 12, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions in London, Britain, Jan. 12, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday, Chinese experts said his resignation could have some impact on international relations, and he leaves a somewhat "balanced" China-UK relations for his successor. They said that if the Conservative Party could have a more orthodox and decent leader with a less unpredictable personality, UK's ties with other countries could become more stable and certain.

Johnson in his resignation statement said that the process of choosing the new leader should begin now. According to BBC, "I've agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week. And I've today appointed a Cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place."

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday,"In general, the impact [of Johnson's resignation] on UK society will be limited, and if the Conservative Party can make the power transition stable, it could even make its approval rating rise again as it has gotten rid of the negative impact from Johnson."

Now it is key to observe whether the opposition Labour Party will take the chance to win back support from the public, and if so, if it will impact the next election, Cui said.

On China-UK relations, Chinese analysts said Johnson had been mainly focusing on Brexit during his term, so his foreign policies, including those on China, were not his priority. He has made efforts to strike a balance between the hardliners and the moderates toward China over the past few years. "Trade between China and the UK has increased during his term, which has also seen some political arguments and divergences, so this just shows a kind of balance between the political differences and economic and trade cooperation of Johnson's policy toward China," Cui noted.

In 2021, even under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has overtaken Germany to become the UK's biggest single import market for the first time since records began. Goods imported from China rose 66 percent from the start of 2018 to $24 billion in the first quarter of 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics of the UK.

Russia, which has intense relations with the UK due to the ongoing Ukraine crisis, also responds to the Johnson's resignation. The Kremlin says it hopes that the UK's next leader will be "more professional," after Johnson resigned as the country's ruling Conservative Party leader Thursday, the Moscow Times reported on Thursday.

"We would like to hope that someday in Great Britain more professional people who can make decisions through dialogue will come to power," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "But at the moment, there is little hope for that."

Regardless of who succeeds Johnson, he will be able to relieve the UK from the burden of Brexit without Johnson's influence, as Johnson is strongly linked to Brexit, and UK's ties with the EU could be improved to some extent, Chinese experts said.

"If the successor is a conservative, decent and orthodox politician, UK diplomacy would be more predictable, unlike Johnson's diplomatic style, which is radical and fickle," Cui noted.

According to US media such as New York Times and Washington Post, observers predicted that Liz Truss, appointed foreign secretary by Johnson last year, is seen as a rising political star and could be a possible successor. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi are also on the list of likely candidates.

Some of these politicians, such as Truss, are hardliners toward China, and if she becomes the new UK prime minister, the China-UK relations would face more uncertainties, said experts.