Despite the British Conservatives’ growing restrictions on China, the British government is determined to identify with the Asian country, shows the new security, defense, development and foreign policy strategy presented on Tuesday (17) by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
While Russia is characterized as a rival and hostile strategic state in the document, called the Integrated Review, China is presented as a “systemic challenge”. The text uses careful language to refer to the Asian giant and a seemingly contradictory approach, which analysts say is intentional.
“The fact that China is an authoritarian state, with different values from ours, presents challenges for the UK and our allies. China will contribute more to global growth than any other country over the next decade, with benefits for the global economy, ”the document said.
According to Sophia Gaston, director of the British Foreign Policy Group (BFPG), the British relationship with China “will remain complicated and closely aligned with the approach of the government of US President Joe Biden”.
In his speech in which he presented the strategy to Parliament, Boris cited criticism from the British government regarding the mass detention of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province and the offer of British citizenship to nearly 3 million residents of Hong Kong, but made it clear that he sees China as a partner.
“We will work with China where it is consistent with our values and interests, including building a stronger and more positive economic relationship and addressing climate change.”
At 114 pages, the journal’s goal is to project the UK’s global location in 2030 and how it plans to get there. The document speaks of cooperation and collaboration, but some areas suggest “difficult paths in international relations,” according to Gaston, and not just because of the “balanced” approach to China.
Among other examples, she cites the foreign policy space dispute with the European Union, from which the United Kingdom has definitively divorced this year.
Boris said the UK will need to exercise “growing international activism” to face a more competitive world, “where the new powers are using all the tools at their disposal to redefine the international order and, in some cases, undermine the open international system. liberal ”.
According to the Prime Minister, the country cannot rely exclusively on an increasingly outdated international system to protect its interests. One of the pillars of this vision is the program of additional investments of 24 billion (186 billion reais, at the current exchange rate) in defense, the largest since the end of the cold war, presented in November.
The document reaffirms the importance of NATO (a military alliance between countries in Europe and North America), but most defense resources will go to research and development, cybersecurity and modernization of the Navy and the Royal Air Force. Boris also plans to launch a British rocket into space.
The document revokes an earlier promise to reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons to 180 warheads, raising the limit to 260.
The focus is less on the military – the UK government relies on European powers like Germany to strengthen NATO ground security. This may raise concerns among UK alliance partners that Boris is withdrawing soldiers from the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force launched in 2015 after the Russian attack on Ukraine.
In his speech to Parliament, the Prime Minister quoted Russia shortly after announcing the creation of a counterterrorism operations center, to “thwart terrorist plans while dealing with the actions of hostile states”.
“It has been almost exactly three years since the Russian state used a chemical weapon in Salisbury, killing an innocent mother, Dawn Sturgess, and spreading fear in a peaceful town,” he said.
Britain’s long-term vision also points the way to the Indo-Pacific region which it describes as “increasingly the geopolitical center of the world”. “From the secure NATO base, we will look for friends and partners wherever they are,” the Prime Minister said in a speech to Parliament.
The UK is a candidate for Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) partner, and next month Boris will make his first major international visit after Brexit to India, a country that he insisted on calling “the world’s greatest democracy” – although several organizations have lowered India’s degree of political and civil freedom over the past two years.
Boris also mentioned in the speech sending the new British aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the Indian Ocean later this year, carrying US Navy F35 planes.
In East Asia, the aircraft carrier will conduct joint exercises with Japan, among others. The document does not mention territorial disputes involving China in the region, particularly in the South China Sea.
Commenting on the review, however, the Conservative Party was more explicit: “China’s growing international assertion and the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific are forcing us to take a new approach, shifting our focus to this. part of the world. We will use our economic, commercial, defense and diplomatic means to help promote stability and prosperity ”.
However, according to Gaston, integration with Asia should focus less on defense and security than on trade, mainly through the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which replaced the TTP after leaving the United States. United States).
The United Kingdom is a candidate to join the alliance which today brings together Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam .
The UK government should seek “relations based on common interests, rather than common values,” said the political scientist, and the chairmanship of the G7 rich country group and the organization of the COP-26 climate conference, which are in the hands of the United Kingdom this year will serve as a test of this new diplomatic ambition.