By Finian Cunningham
September 15, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - China gave Britain a stern warning this week that any naval maneuvers conducted with the US near its declared territories in the South China Sea will be met with a military response.
Beijing rapped London further, telling it to dump its “colonial attitude” with regard to Hong Kong. However, the ultimate leverage, was the caustic reminder to Britain that if it wants to trade with China in the future, then it better mind its manners.
Given the deepening turmoil over Brexit and the uncertain economic prospects once Britain quits the European Union, the British government is going to need every trading opportunity around the world it can muster. Keeping on good terms with China, the globe’s second-biggest national economy, will therefore be crucial for Britain’s post-Brexit survival.
Since taking office in July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been quick to talk up a future golden era of bilateral trade relations with Beijing. He has expressed an interest in China’s Belt and Road Initiative for global trade, and he has even dared to ruffle US President Donald Trump by calling for an end to the tariffs and trade war with Beijing, thus implying the White House’s hardball policy is wrongheaded.
But here’s the tricky balancing act facing Britain. In trying to ingratiate itself with both Washington and Beijing for future trade deals, London is caught in an awkward contradiction. To do Washington’s bidding, Britain will be obliged to join forces for fomenting aggression against China.
China this week preempted that development by telling Britain in no uncertain terms that it can’t afford to antagonize Beijing without foregoing future trade and investment. In short, London has to make a decision: does it want war, or peace and prosperity with China?
The rebuke from Beijing followed a visit to London last week by US Secretary of State Mike Esper. During a major set-piece speech, Esper called on Britain and other European states to focus on confronting China and Russia, whom he accused of posing as aggressors.
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