Unwarranted military provocations are a counterproductive course of action in any circumstance, but when such provocations are conducted against an economically and militarily superior power located on the other side of the globe, such provocations are foolish and self-defeating in the extreme. On the 31st of August British Royal Naval ships entered Chinese territorial waters near the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. Acting as the little sister to America’s big brother, the ships interfered in China’s sovereign affairs in much the same way that the US Navy does on a frequent basis.
But while the US and China are both military and economic superpowers in the midst of a trade war with one another that was inaugurated by the protectionist policies of Donald Trump, Britain is a nation on the verge of losing its place in a common market with 27 of its neighbours in the European Union. With Japan just inking a free trading agreement with the EU while Japanese companies have threatened to pull out of a post-Brexit Britain and likewise with Donald Trump’s United States appearing to not favour new free trading agreements with anyone, including close allies unless, Britain’s leaders have been in discussions with China about a post-Brexit trade deal.
Like with most European countries, Britain’s political class seems to fail to understand the vital importance of China’s role in helping to pave the way for a new economic era of freer trade based on the win-win principles of bilateral respect between both existing and new partners. Be that as it may, as Britain is about to lose its largest trading partners unless it reaches a last minute compromise on its chaotic withdrawal from the European Union, Britain will have run out of major trading partners unless its leaders begin to shift their mentality on China from one of imperial aggression to one of modern cooperation.
While the idea of a Sino-US war in the 21st century is ludicrous as such a war could destroy the planet several times over, at least the US and China can rely on the doctrine of mutually assured destruction to prevent American provocations in the South China Sea from spiralling into a third world war. By contrast, Britain whose more nostalgic elites still cannot accept that they are no longer the occupier of Hong Kong, is fundamentally over its head when trying to provoke a potential Chinese trading partner form a position of weakness.
Britain can still rectify this disgraceful behaviour by approaching China from a position of realism and respect. The UK economy will be in desperate need of Chinese goods, Chinese investment and Chinese cooperation in the fields of research, technological and pharmaceuticals if London is left without a meaningful exit agreement with Brussels – a reality which no looks increasingly likely. While Britain’s financial sector remains strong, the UK requires long term sustainable options for economic growth so that the entire economy is not wholly dependent on financial capitalism feeding a service industry without any insulation based on more sustainable economic options.
China is willing to work with any and all partners on a bespoke win-win basis. However, when such a potential partner engages in wanton military provocations, China could not be blamed if its leadership decided to shut its economic doors to the provocateurs in question.