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U.K.’s future posture towards China.

This juxtaposition of optimism and pessimism – of seeking to work with China and leveraging its considerable economic heft while also pushing back against its bad behavior – sets the tone of the U.K.’s China engagement.

 Time magazine (Subscribe now).

China: Having Your Cake and Eating It Too

One is left with the unmistakable impression that when it comes to China, the British government’s position remains quixotic – and consequently, could lead to confused policies. The review, in its description of the U.K.’s future posture towards the country, notes

The fact that China is an authoritarian state, with different values to ours, presents challenges for the U.K. and our allies. China will contribute more to global growth than any other country in the next decade with benefits to the global economy. China and the U.K. both benefit from bilateral trade and investment, but China also presents the biggest state-based threat to the U.K.’s economic security



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But all said and done, it is quite tricky to deepen commercial ties with China while assuming that one can safeguard security interests independent of them (as Australia has brutally learned over the course of 2020).

Indo-Pacific: Broad, Pragmatic Engagement

The review has a special section on the United Kingdom’s much-advertised Indo-Pacific “tilt” (pp. 66-67).

And the document does deliver a concrete action plan, with nine items, on that front, ranging from new trade agreements with key regional powers such as Australia and New Zealand, to engagement with ASEAN, to more focused use of overseas development assistance. When it comes to Britain’s security goals in the region, the review is clear

Much of the U.K.’s trade with Asia depends on shipping that goes through a range of Indo-Pacific choke points. Preserving freedom of navigation is therefore essential to the U.K.’s national interests. We already work closely with regional partners and will do more through persistent engagement by our armed forces and our wider security capacity-building. 



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Towards that end, the “durian pact” (the Five Power Defense Arrangement) also gets a (justifiable) mention. But what is interesting is how the document’s Indo-Pacific section does not mention the United States once, while it notes future collaboration with other European powers, France and Germany, to meet regional goals. (Of course, the U.S. occupies a place of pride in the overarching framework presented in the document.) Somewhat cheekily: Does the United Kingdom consider the United States an Indo-Pacific power? Or were other concerns (read: not overtly antagonizing China) at play here?


U.K.’s future posture towards China.

Courtesy The Economist

17 Mar 21

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