Great Britain’s foreign policy relations with China go back historically to the Opium Wars, the Unequal Treaties, the Crown Colony of Hong Kong and its return to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Under David Cameron and Theresa May, GB was still engaged in the general engagement of the West with China, David Cameron declared the Asian Pivot for GB, as Obama had already done, emphasizing that future economic growth will no longer be generated in Europe, but in Asia and especially China . Even when relations clouded, GB was still the pioneer in Europe, especially when it allowed Chinese investments in its infrastructure and nuclear power plants, asit as the first Western and European country participated in China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), while the USA and the former colony India clearly positioned themselves against the New Silk Road.
After Trump came to power in the USA, the Sino-American trade war escalated and the USA also demanded a clearer positioning of its allies in this dispute, London’s foreign policy line also changed under Boris Johnson. Especially since GB would no longer be part of the EU after the coming Brexit, it was hoping for a particularly advantageous trade agreement with the US, which nobody knows whether it will come. Trump met Nigel Farage and supported Brexit because it weakens the EU and Germany and GB hopes that it will now be able to establish its own Anglo-Saxon zone for a Global Britain with the Commonwealth and Australia, Canada and New Zealand and special relations and secret service cooperation Five Eyes.
GB also wants to open a naval base in Singapore in addition to the USA to defend the freedom of the seas, which also means that it does not support China’s maritime claims in the South China and East China Seas. While German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s proposal to send German warships to the Indo-Pacific went unnoticed, the British as well as France are unfurling their flag in the Asian Pivot.
It remains to be seen whether Brexit-GB will also boost the second stage of neoliberalism and Thatchernomics and turn the island into a huge taxhaven and a European Cayman Islands or Virginia Islands with complete privatization, dismantling of the welfare state, privatization of the health system and other areas, complete deregulation of the financial sector, low wage area and libertarian slim state power. Whereby the US wouldn’t mind. but was mainly concerned about the Good Friday Agreement / Belfast Agreement, which Bill Clinton had negotiated so laboriously in 1998 and which became the cornerstone for peace in Northern Ireland and an economic boom for the Celtic tiger, especially since many US companies and high-tech firms have established their headquarters in almost tax-free Ireland.
The anti-China policy of Trump-USA, the democracy movement in Hong Kong and now the national security laws, which de facto also mean the end of the 1 country, 2 system, also brought GB to a more anti-Chinese policy. GB excluded Huawei and announced that it would accept up to 3 million Hong Kong residents in the kingdom should the case require it, which Beijing responded with angry protests. GB also signed a trade treaty with Japan which it wants to be a role model for other trade deals with the USA, the EU and China. GB also wants to use Japan and other Asian countries to diversify its engagement and to reduce the dependence on China.
Nevertheless, it is interesting that the Chinese People’s Daily proudly announced a few months ago that parts of the City of London are entering into a cooperation with the Shanghai Stock Exchange, which is intended to mobilize Chinese capital for fintech companies in the UK, and to give China access to British financial markets which would also enhance Shanghai’s role as a financial center compared to Hong Kong. In addition, GB is still a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), British capital continues to flow happily in China´s New Silkroad and, alongside Frankfurt, London has so far been center for offshore renminbi trading as an element of the internationalization of the Chinese yuan. However, the British Empire before WW1 also partly financed the German Baghdad Railway which expanded in British spheres of influence, but Germany and Britain then ended in a world war against each other. And the AIIB is not the main finabcial source for China´s New Silkroad.
Now after the Brexit and with the Biden administration in power in the USA, Britain is reviewing its foreign and security policy again. China is “the greatest state threat to economic security” and Russia “the most acute threat to our security”: the British government frames its future foreign policy with clear enemy images. Britain’s new foreign and security policy document „Global Britain in a competitive age“, published on Tuesday evening, lays down guidelines for the post-Brexit era up to 2030 – a time in which, it is said, „the defense of status quo is no longer sufficient ”, since the rule-based international order has given way to a rivalry of interests and values. Great Britain regularly revises its foreign policy in this way. Ten years ago there were deep cuts in the British military. This time the British nuclear arsenal is to be expanded again for the first time since the end of the Cold War, from 180 to 260 nuclear warheads.
But otherwise the focus is not on armament but, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson puts it in his foreword, „securing our status as a scientific and technological superpower until 2030“. In these areas, China is not only seen as a competitor, but also as an opponent. Dealing with this includes turning British foreign policy towards Asia. Boris Johnson is now following the “Pivot to Asia” of US President Barack Obama ten years ago with a “Tilt to the Indo-Pacific”. Great Britain wants to have a stronger presence here than any other European country in the future. Work on the new strategy began after the 2019 UK elections, but it was already on the agenda. In security circles at the time, security in the oceans, in space and in cyberspace was cited as future priorities. The paper „Global Britain in a competitive age“ is available at the website of the UK Goverment:
A former German diplomat thinks:
„They clearly punch above weight! The British have been doing this for a while, but in this form and in the current situation, the review seems completely out of date. London must be careful not to appear as a clown on the international scene.”
It seems to as if Global Britain would like to cut the ship’s ropes from Europe and sail to distant countries again as a sea power and now think that it is ultimately free and wants to celebrate Trafalgar 2.0 alongside the USA in the form of a new digital opium war over Hong Kong and Asia to build a new Global British Empire .Boris Johnson as Sir Francis Drake of his Queen, who is now suspected of colonialism and racism, and the desintegrating Royal Family. And James Bond, as a mutation of Astra Zeneca, also has 5 Eyes.
However, in this context it would also be a good question if the new German „Indo-Pacific Strategy“ was not also punching above weight as it until now is not a new EU Indo-Pacific Strategy, let alone, if the East Europeans will agree. The EU and even NATO is still divided in the concrete characterization of China as a „threat, challenge competitor, rival, opponent, partner“ and its members have a different view on Russia and China. However, the EU has now agreed to a human rights mechanism and sanctioned Russia because of Nawalny and China because of the mass abuse of the Uigurs. However, very selective as a minimum denominator.
While the UK government published the foreign and security policy review “Global Britian in a Competitive Era”, it also timely publish3ed a Defense Review. While the nuclear weapons are expanded, there will be several cuts in the GB military and a restructuring. The following artciel gives more details:
“Defence Command Paper cuts: IFVs, tanks and army personnel numbers
Harry Lye 22 March 2021 (Last Updated March 22nd, 2021 17:15)
The UK Ministry of Defence has today released its long-awaited defence command paper confirming previously rumoured reports that troop numbers, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and main battle tanks would be cut.
The review confirms a reduction in the size of the British Army from a Full-time Trade Trained strength of 76,000 down to 72,500 by 2025. The army will also be restructured around Brigade Combat Teams – a concept previously reported on by Army Technology.
The document also confirms that 148 of the UK’s Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) will be upgraded and renamed Challenger 3 as part of a £1.3bn modernisation programme. The remaining Challenger MBTs not upgraded will be retired.
The paper also confirms plans to retire the UK’s fleet of Warrior IFVs, saying that the MOD will not proceed with the Lockheed Martin Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) that would have extended the vehicles service life.
Instead, the British Army’s Warrior capability will be replaced by the incoming Boxer Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) by the middle of this decade.
The British Army’s order of Boxer vehicles is set to be accelerated; the paper also mentions expanding the capability of Boxer.
Procurement of the British Army’s Ajax family of vehicles will also continue.
In a foreword to the document, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said: “As a young officer, thirty years ago almost to the day, I was summoned to the drill square to have read aloud key decisions from the government’s defence review, Options for Change.
“We did not know it then, but the world was set for a massive change. Not the fall of the Soviet Union, but other geopolitical changes such as the rise of China, terrorist threat from Al Qaeda and global impact of the internet, which were all some way off, but no one was really prepared for what happened when they did.”
The British Army will also develop a new ‘Ranger Regiment’ which will form part of an ‘Army Special Operations Brigade’. The Ranger Regiment will seed its personnel from current Specialised Infantry Battalions; 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS and 4 RIFLES.
The new regiment will be established in August and receive £120m over the next four years to equip it.
The command paper includes no mention of the army’s Multi-Role Vehicle-Protected (MRV-P), under which the army planned to acquire the US-built Oshkosh Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
A new Security Force Assistance Brigade will also be established. Units from the Brigade are set to be regularly deployed around the world to support the UK’s allies and partners.
The Army is also set to invest in new longer-range artillery capabilities with £250m over the next decade to be invested into the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS). The Army will also spend £800m over 10 years on a new ‘Mobile Fires Platform’.
The MOD will also make a short-term investment in sustaining the Exactor missile system, with a view towards a long-term upgrade in future.
The Army will be structured around two Heavy Brigade Combat Teams which will be made of Boxer, Ajax and Challenger 3, two Light Brigade Combat Teams, one Deep Recce Strike Brigade Combat Team, an Air Manoeuvre Brigade Combat Team and one Combat Aviation Brigade Combat Team.
Wallace’s forward adds: “In Defence, it is always tempting to use the shield of sentimentality to protect previously battle-winning but now outdated capabilities. Such sentimentality, when coupled with over-ambition and under-resourcing, leads to even harder consequences down the line. It risks the lives of our people, who are truly our finest asset.
“It would similarly endanger our people if we simply wielded a sword of cuts, slicing away the battle-proven on the promise of novelty, without regard for what is left behind. Old capabilities are not necessarily redundant, just as new technologies are not always relevant. Those of us in government charged to protect and defend have a duty to enter new domains, as well as continuing investment in the traditional ones, but always adapting to the threat.”
On an aviation front, the Royal Air Force is set to retire its Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoons and its Hawk T1s by 2025. The C130 Hercules fleet will be retired by 2023, and its capability filled by the A400M.
Over £2bn is set to be invested in the Tempest Future Combat Air System (FCAS) over the next four years. The E03D Sentry will be retired in 2021 as the Royal Air Force moves to a fleet of three E-7A Wedgetails.
The paper also commits the MOD to increase its fleet of F-35Bs beyond the currently ordered 48 aircraft.
The UK’s oldest Chinook’s will be retired, and newer extended range Chinooks will be purchased. The paper also says the MOD will invest in a new medium-lift helicopter in the mid-2020s to consolidate the army’s ‘disparate fleet’ that included the Puma helicopter.
The army will also ‘retain and upgrade’ its Watchkeeper uncrewed aerial vehicles.
The Royal Navy is set to invest £40m into the development of the Royal Marines Future Commando Force over the four years, with a further £50m to be spent on converting a Bay-class support ship into a ‘more agile and lethal littoral strike capability’.
Two Littoral Response Groups will be formed, with the first to de deployed to the Euro-Atlantic in 2021 and the second deployed to the Indo-Pacific in 2023.
The Royal Navy also confirmed that its Mine Counter Measures Vessels would be retired as an automated Mine Hunting Capability (MHC) developed in partnership with France comes into service.
Offshore Patrol Vessels will be permanently forward-deployed to the Falklands, Caribbean, Gibraltar, and ‘East of Suez’ freeing up the Royal Navy’s frigates and destroyers for more important missions whilst maintaining a presence in the regions.
The navy will also bring into service new Type 31 and Type 32 frigates – the latter of which may not be a Frigate in the traditional sense. The requirement for Type 32 is for a ship that will be able to protect the Littoral Response Groups and conduct strikes from the sea.
The air defence capability of the UK’s in-service Type 45 Destroyers is to be upgraded and Harpoon ship-to-ship missiles will be replaced.
Investment in shipbuilding will see the construction of three new fleet solid support ships, A Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance capability, Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS) in the early 2030s.
The Royal Navy will also commence the concept and assessment phase for a new ‘Type 83 Destroyer’ which will replace the Type 45 in the late 2030s. “
While Global Britain wants to “tilt to the Indo-Pacific” and after Biden prolonged START, Kerry spoke of a selective cooperation with Russia, especially for climate protection, Biden now called Putin a “killer”, claimed that Russia meddled in the US elections 2020 and would have to “pay a price for that” and while Russia withdraw its ambassador from the USA, the USA now turns to the Asian Pivot and its main competitor China.
Before the first meeting between top politicians from Washington and Beijing, the new US administration rallied its allies in the Indo-Pacific region and struck hard tones against China. “We have to act from a position of strength,” explained US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. For him, dealing with China’s “outrageous acts” has top priority – before the Middle East, before the EU and before Russia. He called China the „greatest geopolitical test of the 21st century“. The US Secretary of State and his Chinese colleague Wang Ji will meet on Thursday in Anchorage – far away from the two capitals. The US government wanted to avoid the impression of friendly encounters and ceremonial scenes. Instead, US President Biden organized a “Quad” summit late last week, six days before the US-China meeting in Alaska. The heads of state of Australia, Japan, India and the USA came together at the four-person meeting on the screen. Their main subject: China. A concrete result of the meeting is that the four countries start a Covid vaccine offensive in the Indo-Pacific region. The aim is to counter the Chinese “vaccine diplomacy” in the region with its own.
In a joint contribution to the Washington Post, the US Secretary of State and the Pentagon chief, ex-General Lloyd Austin, explained the Quad’s actions: „Our combined power makes us stronger when we have to defend ourselves against China’s aggression and threats.“ Blinking’s very first overseas voyage followed this week’s alliance with the Quad. It led to Tokyo and Seoul. And it took place – also a sign of the US’s determination to show a political and military presence in the region – accompanied by the new Pentagon chief. While the civilians and the military from Washington at press conferences criticized the “destabilizing behavior of Beijing”, its military behavior in the region and its internal human rights violations, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry resisted a “malicious attack” and “interference in the internal affairs of China ”.
The Defense and Foreign Ministers of the United States, Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken, as well as Japan, Nobuo Kishi and Toshimitsu Motegi, met in Tokyo on March 16 and criticized China’s behavior in harsher tones than was usual in Trump’s time. The United States and Japan are tightening their tone of voice toward China. After talks between the foreign and defense ministers of the two states in Tokyo, they made a joint statement that portrayed China as a risk to peaceful cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. “China is using coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, it is undermining it democracy in Taiwan, abuses human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet and claims maritime rights in the South China Sea that violate international law, ”said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to journalists in Tokyo after the ministerial meeting.
On the Japanese side, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Ishi took part in the meeting. The joint statement states that Chinese behavior, insofar as it is incompatible with the existing international order, poses political, economic, military and technological challenges for the Alliance and the international community. „We are united in the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,“ said Blinken. „We will, if necessary, oppose China using coercion or aggression to get its way.“ A signal of the importance of Japan the Tokyo meeting marked the diplomatic travel debut of Blinken and Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense, in the government of President Joe Biden. The fact that they chose Japan as their first travel destination is seen in Tokyo as a signal of the importance that the Biden government attaches to security cooperation with the Asian country.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will travel to Washington in early April and will be the first foreign head of government to advise Biden directly. In preparation for the trip in Tokyo on Tuesday, Suga received a first vaccination against the corona virus in front of the camera. The rhetoric against China was harsher than at the previous American-Japanese ministerial meetings under the previous government of Donald Trump. China was not mentioned by name in the final declarations of the meetings in 2017 and 2019. A direct success for Japan is that the ministers explicitly emphasized in the declaration that the joint defense pact also includes the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. This administers Japan and regards it as Japanese territory.
The islands are claimed by China under the name Diaoyu and also by Taiwan. Last year, China had coastguard ships called up to the islands 333 times, more often than ever before, in order to demonstrate its presence and claims there. The Chinese ships are sometimes harassing Japanese fishing boats. The Japanese government fears military escalation after China recently allowed its coast guard to use weapons against enemy ships entering Chinese territorial waters. In response, Japan allowed its coast guard to fire at ships attempting to land on the islands. In the joint declaration, America and Japan reaffirm their „serious concerns about disruptive developments in the region“ and cite the Chinese Coast Guard Act as an example.
On Wednesday, the American ministers met with their counterparts in the South Korean capital, Seoul. There, North Korea policy should be the main focus. The Biden government is currently developing a new strategy vis-à-vis the country to get North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong-un to renounce nuclear weapons. Here, too, there are signs of a tougher line from the Biden government compared to Trump’s previous government. Blinken speaks of the denuclearization of North Korea. Trump, on the other hand, spoke of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and thus accepted North Korea’s preferred choice of words. With spectacular bilateral meetings with the North Korean ruler, Trump had ultimately tried in vain to end the nuclear threat from North Korea.
According to the Biden government, Pyongyang has refused all American attempts to establish contact in recent weeks. Before the Americans met with the South Korean government, the North Korean regime launched a verbal attack. The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Yo-jong, criticized the South Koreans‘ current military exercises with the American ally.
Kim threatened to terminate a military agreement between the two Korean states. In the agreement, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed in 2018, among other things, to abandon military observation posts on the demarcation line between the two states and to limit air traffic around the ceasefire line. The agreement is intended to help prevent military tensions between the Korean states. Another harsh reaction came from Pyongyang. From there, Kim Jong, Us influential sister Kim Yo Jong, warned the US President that if he wanted to sleep soundly for the next four years he shouldn’t start with offensives. Blinken travels to Alaska after the consultations in Seoul to meet the Chinese foreign minister there on Thursday. Austin travels from Seoul to India to hold talks with the local government.
However, the question is, if Biden´s policy is thought- through as it switches between China and Russia as main enemy , then to North Korea while be silent on Iran´s escalation in nuclear enrichment, the Houthi attacks in Yemen, attacks on Saudiarabia and if it wasn´t better if Biden focuses more like Trump on China and appease North Korea as its denuclearization might be an illusion and a stop in the development of ICBMs which could target the US would be more helpful..