tirsdag 26. mai 2020

UK and China's 'golden era' comes to abrupt end

When Chinese President Xi Jinping conducted a state visit to the U.K. in 2016, there was heady talk about a "golden era" of Sino-British relations. The mood has since chilled due to China's crackdown in Hong Kong, Huawei Technologies' controversial lead role in the U.K.'s fifth-generation, or 5G, network and U.S. President Donald Trump's pressure on allies in Europe and Asia to choose sides in the trade war.

Boris Johnson's desire for an early free trade deal with the U.S. as part of his new "Global Britain" agenda only heightens the quandary. The Trump administration will look to include anti-China elements in a new trade deal with the U.K., similar to measures inserted into recent deals with Canada and Japan.

China's own actions -- including the proposed new national security law for Hong Kong, the latest ham-fisted attempt to tame the city's pro-democracy movement -- have sown mistrust. The U.K. has abandoned muted criticism and last week joined Australia and Canada in criticizing Beijing's move on the grounds that it infringes the legally binding 1984 Joint Declaration, signed by the U.K. and China, which provided Hong Kong with "a high degree of autonomy."

In fact, the erosion of autonomy in Hong Kong during the Xi era has reached the point where Britain's former colony is effectively operating under "one country, one system." As this political reality sinks in, and unease grows about Britain's dependency on China in the wake of the coronavirus, London is mobilizing.