Aletho News


Liz Truss to contain China and Russia amid massive internal problems

Britain’s new prime minister will continue Boris Johnson’s foreign policy

By Ahmed Adel | September 8, 2022

Liz Truss as British Prime Minister does not bode well for peace in the Asia-Pacific region as her stance on foreign policy is quite predictable. During her tenure as Foreign Secretary in Boris Johnson’s cabinet, Liz Truss obviously spoke many times on foreign policy issues, but often in a manner that seemingly appeared she wanted a revival of the British Empire. In fact, the British press called her the most hawkish politician in the Conservative government. 

Her so-called toughness is especially evident in her stance towards Russia and China. For Liz Truss, both Russia and China are threats to humanity. Despite having this belief, it is evident that she in fact knows very little about these countries, especially when we consider that she had earlier this year confused Russian regions with Ukrainian territory and even more recently said Ukraine had survived a lot of invasions – “from the Mongols to the Tatars”, without realising Mongols and Tatars are one and the same.

And in this light, it is remembered that a year ago an official British document described China as a “systemic competitor”. With such a view, it is not surprising that London has created a lot of problems in its China policy. The British government condemned Beijing for its human rights violations in its western Xinjiang Autonomous Region, expressed dissatisfaction with Beijing’s “Security Law” for Hong Kong, and even welcomed the visit of American politicians to Taiwan. All of these provocations naturally aggravate Beijing.

This conservative approach could interfere with normal economic and trade relations between the two countries, which are contradictorily important to Britain as China is its third largest trading partner. Rather, by inflating anti-China sentiment, the British government wants to distract people from the country’s massive internal problems: high inflation, rising fuel prices and increasing poverty. 

It is clear that Liz Truss will continue the anti-China line of her predecessors. Her newly appointed foreign secretary, James Cleverly, has vowed to take a tough stance on Russia and China. 

According to Jonathan Sullivan, director of China programmes at Nottingham University’s Asia Research Institute, Britain’s so-called “pragmatic diplomacy” has lost its reputation.

“In ordinary circumstances, I’d say the new PM would ultimately pursue a more realistic and balanced approach to foreign affairs once in office, but the UK’s reputation for pragmatic diplomacy has taken a battering in recent years,” he said. “Labelling a major trade partner a threat would be a remarkable development, but the fact that it is not totally inconceivable speaks to the uncertainties that exist around Truss and the negative momentum that has built up around UK-China relations.”

None-the-less, it is ridiculous to hear the British talk about a so-called Chinese threat considering the country has not been at war since 1974. Meanwhile, during that period, Britain has battled in the Falklands War, Gulf War, Operation Desert Fox, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Libyan and Syrian wars, among others. 

After Brexit, the UK wanted to prove that it was still a great and relevant power without the EU and participate in global processes. One of these points is the South China Sea, where the UK plans to gain a foothold. Under previous Conservative prime ministers, it was expressed that the British Navy needed a regular presence in the South China Sea. They also plan to build UK naval bases in the region, like in Brunei.

So far, there are no permanent bases, but last year the British Navy’s newest and most powerful aircraft carrier, Queen Elizabeth II, sailed through the South China Sea. Certainly, under the Truss government, British warships will patrol these waters only for the sake of provoking China. There is an external reason for this – like the Americans, the British would claim that they are sending their fleet to distant lands to ensure “freedom of navigation” off China.

In addition, the desire to play an important role in the Indo-Pacific region is demonstrated by the UK’s participation in the new military bloc AUKUS, established in September 2021. There is no doubt that the Liz Truss government will continue to commit to its obligations under this alliance with the US and Australia.

All this goes against the vital interests of China and the wider East Asia region. But it is likely that the British prime minister will go in this direction. The question is whether she will be able to achieve her objectives in containing the Rise of China, something that is seemingly unlikely.

It is recalled that only days ago the Indian economy surpassed that of Britain, meaning that the former colonial master has slipped to sixth place in the global GDP ranking, with India rising to fifth place. This also comes as research has found that two-thirds of UK families could be in fuel poverty by January. With compounding economic and societal issues, it appears that Truss will continue in the same mould of Boris Johnson in not dealing with this and instead prioritise the attempt to maintain Britain’s relevancy in the world.

Ahmed Adel is a Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher.

September 8, 2022 - Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Wow, Britain’s new PM is a woman, again. Thatcher Mark II. And, how we miss Maggie? No! nor Theresa May, now in the trash can.
    One tends to think of PM’s and Presidents as having enormous power, but, in fact, these politicians have an agender given for them follow, ‘or else’. It’s the “Power behind the PM/President” that calls the tune, and it invariably, serves the “1%” and the people are of no consequence whatsoever (just like in the USA, and here in Australia).

    Politics is a filthy game.


    Comment by brianharryaustralia | September 8, 2022 | Reply

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