Britain should toughen its stance towards the “grey authoritarianism” of Russia and China, according to a major new paper from a team of pro-Brexit politicians, foreign policy experts, and academics.
The report warns that despite President Putin’s brutal re-invasion of Ukraine the biggest threat to the UK and its democratic allies stems from China and its stated ambition of becoming the pre-dominant world power by the middle of this century.
It backs a series of hard-headed measures designed to confront Russia’s naked imperialism and to contain Beijing’s “dream” of turning its seas into a Chinese lake and ultimately replacing the United States as the global superpower.
These include deploying NATO navies to lift the Russian Black Sea blockade of Ukrainian grain exports, which is driving up the cost of food and threatening mass starvation in the poorest parts of Africa.
It also cites former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s warning to Putin that if he uses nuclear missiles in his botched attempt to conquer Ukraine, it will immediately be given Nato membership and Russia will face the combined might of the West if it seeks to continue to prosecute its war.
China should face a concerted containment policy in which the UK and allies such as the US, Australia, Japan and India work together to limit its economic and military power.
UK measures against China should include withdrawal from the Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) and banning Chinese firms with links to the country’s military from operating here or forging research partnerships with UK universities.
More broadly, the paper, Defining Britain’s Post-Brexit Role in the World, urges concerted moves by the Anglosphere, English-speaking countries with close ties to Britain, which overlaps heavily with the Commonwealth, to come together to combat the threat to liberal democracy posed by autocratic states. The paper is the first substantive multi-disciplinary analysis to offer a considered UK strategic response to the recent shifts in global affairs.
It says: “The greatest potential threat to a resilient and re-United Kingdom in a post-pandemic world is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its autocratic leadership. While Russia may present more immediate and more tangible threats, China should be recognised as the long-term concern…the China threat realistically challenges both internal security and the UK’s role in a rule-governed international post-pandemic order.
“We propose that Britain should invest a great deal more in the potential power that resides in the cultural and political affinities between countries of the ‘Anglosphere’, the Commonwealth in particular.
The report’s authors, who include former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former Cabinet Minister David Jones, historian Professor Robert Tombs, Professor Gwythian Prins of the LSE, foreign policy experts from the King’s College War Studies Department and Cambridge University, and former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, advocate a three-point plan to check Chinese ambitions:
- Re-invigorate the Commonwealth to provide an alternative to Chinese influence
- Prioritise and accelerate free trade agreements in the Commonwealth and with the US
- Build on AUKUS (the defence pact between Australia, the US and the UK) and the Quad (security cooperation between the US, Japan, India and Australia) to accelerate Anglosphere security
The report proposes enhancing the power and status of the Commonwealth by giving India, a counterweight to China, greater prominence and shifting elements of the Commonwealth Secretariat to New Delhi.
The report says: “The UK has always been an open society, committed to free trade with the world. However, British foreign policy must now recognise that it faces what the CCP intends to formulate – a world system on its terms by the centenary of the foundation of the CCP in 2049.
“Whatever shape this new international order might take, it is not one informed by a movement toward a liberal end of history. As Xi Jinping made clear in his speech to the twelfth party congress in 2013: ‘To accomplish the Chinese Dream we have to take a Chinese path. This is the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This is not a path that opens up by itself’.
“We should also recognise, as Australia and the US already do, that the unveiling of Communist China’s hostility to the Free World was the main geo-political outcome of the Year of the Pandemic. China understands and plays the West all too well. The Integrated Review intimates that the UK Government understands the dangers of Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’ scarcely at all. “
“In sum, a China that many states (and not just western ones) perceive as aggressive has engendered an increasingly coordinated regional opposition. This will make it harder for China to become a regional or global leader. If regional governments believe China is expansionist, they will believe every strategic gain by China emboldens Beijing to strive for more.
“Thus, China can be checked by a containment and deterrence strategy and Putin’s War has collaterally provided an impetus to doing just this. Beyond that, expectations should be low, since China shows few signs of a willingness to assimilate itself to UK thinking.
The UK can play a key role in achieving containment and deterrence if the Foreign Office can be shaken out of its endemic declinism and its delusion that China can be both a threat and a strategic partner at the same time.
“In this context, the UK must reassess its Free World alliance commitments and build alliances with those where trust is most complete within the Anglosphere, the Commonwealth and with the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence nations at its core.”