New UK PM should not treat ‘being tough on China’ as routine: Global Times editorial
Published: Sep 05, 2022 01:00 AM
British Secretary for Foreign Affairs Liz Truss is pictured during a meeting with her Czech counterpart on May 27, 2022 in Prague. Photo: AFP

British Secretary for Foreign Affairs Liz Truss is pictured during a meeting with her Czech counterpart on May 27, 2022 in Prague. Photo: AFP

After an eight-week race, the results of the Britain's Conservative Party leadership election will be announced on Monday. And according to various polls, the current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is likely to win. Queen Elizabeth II will accept the resignation of the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday, and the new leader of the Tory party will be invited by the Queen to become the UK prime minister and form a new cabinet. Can the new prime minister breathe a new life into the UK? The British public and the UK's allies seem rather pessimistic about this prospect. At the same time, there are voices from the European Union and the US expressing "concerns" about Truss, and her fierce and rough rhetoric against countries like China and Russia during the election campaign had also sparked concerns.

What's worse, as the new British prime minister is about to be revealed, the latest data from the International Monetary Fund shows that India has become the world's fifth largest economy, surpassing the UK in the last three months of 2021. The UK's economy grew slowly in the first two quarters of 2022, while the Indian economy is expected to achieve a more than 7 percent growth this year. The gap between the two countries will widen further. This is another example of the economy of a former colony overtaking the suzerain state after US' GDP exceeded the UK's more than 100 years ago. Although Britain was prepared for this, the historic surpassing by a former colony - now a member of the Commonwealth - has undoubtedly piqued the sense of superiority and arrogance of the British elite.

Obviously, the UK is at a "dangerous critical point" with piles of problems to solve for the new prime minister. The most prominent one is that the rising cost of living is suffocating ordinary people in the UK, and some poor families are even facing threats to their lives. The country's energy bills will soar by 80 percent from October. As the cold winter is approaching, some have predicted that a considerable number of British people will likely freeze to death this winter. A thornier problem is a slow economic recovery. The British Chamber of Commerce has recently warned that the UK's economy will fall into recession before the end of 2022.

Facing such a severe domestic situation and so many serious problems that cannot be avoided, a stronger sense of mission and urgency should have been aroused in the ruling party. But what is the Tory party doing? They are at their wit's end facing real problems, and instead focuse mainly on political infightings and attacks against other countries.

Truss, in particular, has been playing up the threat of China and Russia almost during the whole electoral campaign, trying her best to tout an increase in the defense budget, and even claiming that pressing the nuclear button is "an important duty of the Prime Minister." The clearest promise made by Truss during the campaign was to raise defense spending to 3 percent of GDP by 2030. This would be the biggest increase since the 1950s.

Some said that Truss aspires to be regarded as a new "Iron Lady." She often dresses similarly to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and wants to copy the manner of the "Iron Lady." But to become the new "Iron Lady," Truss needs to recognize the development trend of the times and change the rigid and outdated "imperial mentality." Especially, she should focus more on domestic pragmatic development, instead of opportunistically diverting contradictions, or even taking "being tough with China" as a routine. After all, playing with geopolitics may grab the limelight, but won't resolve UK's problems.

Another statement of Truss during the campaign is that if becoming prime minister, she might declare China a "national security threat" to the UK. What we want to say is that, trying to divert domestic attention by exaggerating the "China threat" and slamming other countries is like an old meme played by lame political talk show actors, which serves no purpose other than to expose the incapacity of such politicians in terms of their governance. In this era, it is difficult for European and American politicians to forge a pragmatic and innovative foreign policy path. The easiest way is to pander to populism, but this will only bring about a more difficult fate for their countries.

According to the latest polls, even though British electorate think Truss will become the next prime minister, her nationwide approval ratings are waning. Only 12 percent of Britons expect Truss to be a good or great leader, while 52 percent expect her to be poor or terrible. It is hoped that the new British prime minister will be inspired by the current situation and the reaction of public opinion, and take practical actions that are significant enough to break and reverse the negative impression of the outside world, and ignite British people's new expectations for the future. This is also what the vast majority of countries in the world, including China, would like to see.