From pro to con
Last year the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government was ‘pro-China’. But since then the relationship has dramatically changed, as reflected in the article in your November issue of Asian Affairs, based on a statement by Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter.
Gen. Carter drew a distinction between democratic and non-democratic states, suggesting China and Britain are inherently at odds. The most critical event that caused this shift in relations was Britain’s decision to ban Huawei from the country’s high-speed wireless network earlier this year. The decision to ‘side’ with the US against Huawei was made in the context of the Hong Kong protests and Beijing’s disregard for free speech and the semi-autonomous government of the city.
While some might think General Carter’s words were too bellicose, my view is that his sentiments were pragmatic. It is the responsibility of a military leader to realistically assess threats, and identify weaknesses in the national defence that an enemy could exploit in an attack. As the General said, the shift in warfare toward the cyber domain makes this a compelling issue. I believe he was right to warn the British government of potential danger from China.
Security Research Analyst
Britain’s Asian allies
The Editor of Asian Affairs pointed out a number of important issues in his piece ‘The Price of Hawkishness’ (November issue). I believe that Britain has a big responsibility towards its former colony Hong Kong, which is suffering due to the draconian National Security Law and the impact of the US-China trade war.
The author also mentioned the issue of cyber threats from China. In my opinion, this is the right time for Britain to increase coordination with countries like India, which is also a victim of Chinese cyber-attacks. Likewise, Britain should cooperate with the Quad group involving India, Japan, the US and Australia to counter Chinese aggression. Britain has one of the world’s strongest navies and it can contribute a lot towards maintaining peace in the Indo-Pacific region.
Keeping a hawkish eye over China is surely a sensible approach for Britain. If, post-Brexit, the UK wants to maintain its global influence, then it also needs to cooperate closely with its allies and its friends in Asia.
Research Intern at Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS)
As a regular reader of your magazine, it was good to see attention focused on Tibet in your November issue (Richard Gregson’s ‘Regressive re-education’ and the conference piece, ‘Spotlight on Tibet’). The highlighting of both human rights and environmental concerns, while giving grounds for anger and alarm, does offer hope that a problem too long sidelined is now eliciting real, widespread consideration in high places. As Gregson and the panellists so eloquently underscored, the situation in Tibet goes far beyond the region and an isolated socio-political cause. Left unaddressed, it could ultimately be a problem for us all.
Taking the initiative
Humphrey Hawksley’s piece ‘Recast on the Asian Stage’ (Nov. edition) raised some important issues about the way a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ views the world, including Asia.
I believe it is in the long-term interest of Britain to tap into the growth potential of Asia and this means it should partner with key players in the region. Britain needs to go beyond simply doing whatever the United States wants it to do. Indeed, one of the government’s promises to the people of Britain was that once freed from the EU, the UK would pursue a more independent role. Britain struck a free trade deal with Japan this year; yet the Japanese economy is in recession and that country has lagged behind its potential growth rate for many years.
The reality is that it is not Japan but China which is the growth engine for the global economy. Furthermore, China’s ambitious Belt & Road Initiative promises to lift millions of people in Asia out of poverty. On this basis, it seems Britain should become more engaged with China and fully support BRI projects. This partnership will not diminish Britain’s role in the world. Rather, it will enable it to fully play its role as an independent, forward-looking nation.