Truss’ China decision risks further catastrophe
Published: Oct 12, 2022 08:53 PM
Liz Truss Photo: AFP

Liz Truss Photo: AFP

It has been widely announced in right-wing leaning tabloid newspapers that the Liz Truss government will officially designate China a "threat" to the United Kingdom in its upcoming strategic defence review, the first time this has ever been done. The decision was lauded by the leading Sinophobic cheerleaders of the British Parliament, including Iain Duncan Smith who is the primary lobbyist for anti-China policies. 

How exactly, of course, China represents a "threat" to the United Kingdom is not made clear. Either why or how. The two countries sit on opposite sides of the world, are not neighbors and have had a tremendously prosperous bilateral trade and investment relationship. China is not attempting to invade Britain, to impose its ideology on Britain or anything truly malign beyond "win-win" cooperation. History does show that Britain has in fact been a threat to China, but never the other way round. Britain has invaded China, but China has never invaded Britain, and logically speaking, never will.

Yet, that is not how the British government sees it. Despite once having lauded a "golden age" of relations with Beijing during the era of the David Cameron government, the United Kingdom has in recent years began to vent unilateral and unprovoked hostility towards China across a range of issues. 

What was an atmosphere of pragmatism, openness and cooperation, has been replaced with unwarranted hostility, paranoia and small-mindedness. The shift occurred around two years ago, diminishing the hopes of Boris Johnson to articulate deeper economic ties with Beijing.

The answer is of course that Britain doesn't truly control its foreign policy and instead humbly obeys the orders given from Washington, who had become so contemptuous of Britain's favorable relationship with China that in 2019, Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger yelled at the British cabinet for five hours flat. How ironic it is then, that since Brexit, Britain subsequently frames its foreign policy in the light of "independence" and a "global Britain." It could not be further from the truth.

Yet that doesn't explain otherwise, the personal incompetence and as former Australian prime minister Paul Keating put it, the "demented" nature of Liz Truss, who is by no exaggeration a NeoConservative fanatic who has a worldview only characterized by abrasive ideological confrontation. She aspires for a dual confrontation with both China and Russia. Of course, Britain had little to lose directly in respect to the latter, but for the former, this involves confronting one of Britain's most important trade and investment partners during a time of grim economic outlook.

Truss has already scalped the extraordinary achievement of being the most unpopular Prime Minister since records began in the shortest span of time. Her government's overtly ideological character created a financial crisis and a crash of the pound within weeks, and faces on top of that surging inflation, growing industrial unrest across the board, shrinking standards of living and real earnings and eyewatering power bills. The economy itself has barely recovered from the crash imposed by her predecessor's equally as disastrous COVID-19 mismanagement, and has no growth prospects ahead. Her only "plan" appears to be to reward the richest in society.

Yet despite all of this, Truss is now banking on a growing confrontation with China, the world's second largest economy, of which Brexit Britain in reality so desperately needs in terms of both export markets and inbound investment. 

The UK government has continually chased a free-trade agreement with a protectionist United States, who whilst continually doling out its marching orders to Britain, shows absolutely no interest in such. The reality is that China and China alone, is the largest and most suitable market for rekindling growth in Britain, but this is now gone because of a fanatical government who wages a foreign policy based exclusively on identity, ideology and nostalgia.

In doing so, the designation of China as a threat is groundless absurdity, and is textbook of the erratic thinking which has made her so deeply unpopular as it is, and if she continues to go down this path, severance of the UK with China will surely pose even graver consequences for the British economy, who right now could not be in a weaker, more fragile or uncertain position. 

The author is a political and historical relations analyst. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn