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Britain to lend US a hand in countering China

Written by: (Contributed) on 7 February 2021


Moves, by the Johnson government in Britain, to forge stronger diplomatic relations with US-led allies in the Indo-Pacific are not merely designed to seek higher returns for foreign policy dividends. They are an example of the UK seeking to strengthen their own diplomatic alliance with the US; the latter, in recent times, has experienced a dramatic reduction in traditional hegemonic regional positions at the hands of China, which has become a major competitor.

The UK, therefore, are seeking to assist the US to reassert their traditional positions by using the Commonwealth and other regional bodies to achieve objectives. The moves provide a further example of the US-led escalation of diplomatic tensions across the Indo-Pacific.

In early February, it was announced that the Johnson government were considering an application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) or TPP-11 regional grouping. At first glance this might appear rather strange; the UK has only recently voted to leave the European Union (EU), the members of which were its nearest economic neighbours for decades. The CPTPP is a regional free-trade economic body consisting of eleven Pacific Rim countries including Australia together with others in the Americas, including Chile, Peru and Mexico.

The timing of the announcement is also noteworthy; moves to initially establish the original TPP took place under the Obama administration and were subsequently discontinued by the Trump administration. The close nature of UK-US diplomatic relations can be easily established following the demise of the one-term Trump administration; once departed, there were no obstacles for the UK to consider joining the CPTPP.

The official media release noted the UK were expected to begin negotiations for membership of the exclusive organisation this year. (1) It also noted the CPTPP had been established 'to remove trade barriers among the eleven nations representing nearly 500 million consumers in the Asia-Pacific region in a bid to counter China's growing economic influence'. (2)

It is, therefore, not particularly surprising to also find the Johnson government is also considering joining the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), a regional defence and security organisation consisting of the US, Australia, Japan and India. The QSD organisation grew out of previous US-led regional defence and security organisation in an attempt to establish more effective diplomatic posturing for challenging China (3)

The moves, furthermore, also included diplomatic initiatives by the Johnson government to discuss formalising an 'expanded so-called D10 group of democracies, which is also aimed at countering China'. (4)

What has shaken US-led regional diplomacy has been the rapid nature of China's ascendency, from a developing country to a major player in a few decades. Diplomatic initiatives, from Beijing in recent years, have been noted to have secured their access to eighty per cent of Pacific exclusive economic zones. (5) Fears exist for the Pentagon that China has already successfully broken Island Chain Theory, securing access into the main part of Oceania.

The UK has also been part of the Indo-Pacific region although it has tended to keep a relatively low-profile and rely upon major Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The 54-member country British Commonwealth, however, has nineteen members in the Asia-Pacific region, with their diplomatic representatives and Commissioners having direct access to the Privy Council, an exclusive private advisory body for the head of realm, who is now Prince Charles. The secretive system is, in essence, MI6, the British overseas intelligence service, and an important player across the Indo-Pacific region behind the scenes. (6) It is also an appendage to the Five Eyes intelligence system through long-standing and secure tentacles into strategically-placed countries.  

In recent times the US-led regional allies have been concerned at the unfavourable publicity attached to traditional US diplomacy, particularly during the Trump administration. It has led one regional political leader, Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong, to suggest the fated America First policy associated with the Trump administration 'will have long-term repercussions in Asia that may never be reversed'. (7) With China already established as a major regional player, it was furthermore noted, 'not very many countries would like to join basically a coalition against those who have been excluded, chief of whom will be China'. (8)

Against this backcloth of diplomatic practicalities the announcement that planning was already underway for President Biden to attend a function at Buckingham Palace in June, prior to the G7 meeting, and it will include the 'Queen's soft power reception', has left little to the imagination; moves are afoot for the UK to formally step-up their regional diplomatic position in the Indo-Pacific. (9)

The US have brought influence to bear upon the UK to take a more decisive position, on their behalf. And, as already seen, the subservient Johnson government, ever obsequious and sycophantic, have jumped at the opportunity. The fact the Pentagon has begun to remove and dismiss a large number of members of 42 prominent boards and committees who had been placed in positions of authority by the previous Trump administration is evidence, in itself, that the present UK government has been freed from the US foreign policy directives of the 2016-20 period. (10) Members of the secretive boards and committees will be replaced by others, with the changing of the guard, who are closer to the Biden administration.   

The forthcoming US-led pomp and ceremony of the Rule Britannia mentality, unfortunately, will have far-reaching implications for Australia:
                                          We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Britain wants to join ranks of TPP-11, Australian, 1 February 2021.

2.     Ibid.

3.     The reasons behind Washington's push for GSOMIA., Hankyoreh., 12 November 2019.

4.     Australian, 1 February 2021.

5.     China now controls 80 per cent of the Pacific EEZ., Rieko Hayakawa and Jennifer L. Anson, 2020.

6.     MI6., Stephen Dorril, (London, 2000), contains numerous references to the clandestine nature of the British intelligence system and their use of traditional class and state power to obscure the nature of their business.

7.     Asia's perceptions of America may never recover: Lee, Australian, 18 November 2020.

8.     Ibid, and, Strategic Analysis Paper/s, Future Directions International: The South-West Pacific and Sino-US Competition, 23 July 2019, US Strategic Objectives in the South Pacific Challenged by Sino-US Competition, 10 October 2019, China's Strategic Objectives and Ambitions in the South-West Pacific, 31 October 2019.
9.     The Queen reportedly plans to host President Biden at Buckingham Palace in June, The Business Insider, 1 February 2021.

10.   Pentagon clears out advisors, Australian, 4 February 2021.


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