UK Foreign Policy
China has come under a lot of attack from the UK government. The introduction of the law, to require those convicted of breaking laws in Hong Kong to be tried on the mainland, is an attempt by the Chinese government to put an end to the rioting and general disorder that followed a milder move to bring the people of the territory closer to China. The protesters were greatly encouraged by the reaction from the UK and the US. I was surprised at how tolerant the Chinese government was when the protesters first started their violent rampages and I was surprised that the protesters continued to riot after the government yielded to their initial demands. It was inevitable that China would restore order by force.
The UK had Hong Kong on lease from China for 99years, although only on lease, it was always seen as part of the British Empire. When the lease expired in 1997 the territory returned to China and some saw this as the final end of the Empire. Before agreeing to hand over to the Chinese government the British government laid down certain conditions, they required that Hong Kong be allowed to continue to operate and trade as it had been doing for a further fifty years, and the Chinese did agree that there should be a transition period. They had no need to agree to anything, Britain had no negotiating rights, had the British refused to hand over the territory there can be little doubt that the Chinese would have quite legally occupied the area by force, but one assumes that the Chinese government saw it as the right thing to do and to their advantage to allow Hong Kong to continue as a capitalist state. There has been a transition period of 23years and the Chinese clearly thought that it was time to do more to merge the two economies and made a not-unreasonable proposal. This was rejected by the people in Hong Kong and the British government supported them. It is true that the Chinese proposal was not what had been agreed at the hand-over, but the British really had no right to interfere, Hong Kong is part of China. Their interference has led to more of an iron fist response from the Chinese and it has soured the relationship between the two nations.
China has been endeavouring to establish its sovereignty over the seas around China, the limits to what might rightfully be called Chinese waters does seem to be unclear and there may be a need for this to be established by international agreement, but, so far, the UK and US have not, as far as I know, proposed seeking international agreement but rather they have criticised and threatened sanctions. A little bit rich coming from the British government when it too is engaged in some serious arguments over its efforts to enforce sovereignty over its waters. Once again this has further soured the relationship.
The Chinese firm Huawei appears to be a world leader in digital communications, certainly in the introduction of 5G. They were to be employed in the development of 5G in the UK, there are fears that, being owned by the Chinese government, they may use their involvement in UK communications for espionage. Our security services looked into this and concluded that they could limit Huawei’s involvement so that there would be no risk. The Americans were greatly annoyed by the possibility of our use of Huawei and, no doubt applied maximum political pressure, so our security services suddenly decide that they are not sure and we are no longer going to involve Huawei, this decision, we are told, will put back 5G for the UK, force us to use inferior equipment and increase the cost by billions.
The decision to exclude Huawei has further annoyed the Chinese government.
The treatment of the Uighur people in north-western China by the Chinese authorities appears to be a matter of great concern to the rest of the world. There clearly is some disregard of their human rights. We do not know why the Chinese government has picked on these people and we do not know the details of what is going on. All we can say, I think, is that it does not appear to be a case of genocide. It is right for our government, and all other governments to be asking for information from the Chinese.
There was a time, not so very long ago, when we were told that China was to be a big trading partner for us, that they were going to make up for any lost trade with Europe following Brexit. Now we seem to be going about ensuring that that will not happen.
I have not been to China and have not met many Chinese people, those that I have met were mostly educated English speaking. I found them to be intellectually bright and, with one exception, likeable with a good sense of humour. There are other nationalities that I have not found so easy to get along with. I am in awe of what they have achieved in the development of their nation, the roads, the high-speed trains, the new airports, the skyscrapers. Whilst we have been talking for years about a high-speed train from London to Birmingham and a third runway for London Airport the Chinese have built thousands of miles for highspeed rail and numerous entirely new airports.
There is no doubt China is a superpower, soon maybe, the superpower. We know little of their military capability, but it is certain that it is considerable, they are as advanced technologically as any nation and, no doubt, have the capability to build weapons to strike anywhere in the world if they so chose. It seems to me that the Americans are both jealous of their rate of progress and scared, almost paranoid, as they see their dominant role threatened. As a consequence they are endeavouring to ostracise the Chinese and they are putting pressure on the UK government to assist them. It is very regrettable that we appear to be complying. Of course, it is rather alarming for any nation to be so powerful economically and militarily, but that is the situation and we need to be wary. We should maintain our nuclear deterrent, but we should be trying to bring the Chinese into the family of nations and we, in particular, should be aiming to develop our trade links with them and live in peace, they should have no need to attack us economically or militarily. As we are heading towards a big reduction in our trade with Europe, if we alienate the Chinese, we will find ourselves very dependent upon trade with the US and very much at their mercy.
Although not in quite the same league as China, Russia is another powerful nation, it does have large armed forces and advanced technologies. It is Russian rockets that have been transporting US astronauts to the space station. Their technological ability should never be under-estimated. The Americans see Russia as another threat, they will look for any excuse to apply economic sanctions. There have been accusations of Russian attempts to influence the outcome of elections in western nations. In particular they have been accused of attempting to influence the Scottish vote on independence, the US presidential election, the UK Brexit vote and the UK general election, and this has led to increasing animosity towards Russia.
Of course, the Russians would do what they could peacefully to influence those outcomes. They would use social media and propaganda through their news outputs. It would clearly be to Russia’s advantage to see the break-up of the UK, similarly it would be pleased to see the EU weakened by the UK leaving, seeing the Conservatives winning the election would ensure that Brexit happened. Also I suppose the election of a fool as US president would please them, although may be not if he were a loose cannon.
It is so hypocritical of the US, in particular, and the UK to complain at attempts by Russia to influence democratic elections when you think of what the US has done in South America, and what we have done with them in the Ukraine and the middle east, as well as Africa.
UK Foreign Policy