Updated: Jun 11, 2020
China recently proved to all the world how untrustworthy it is as an ally, by attempting to cripple Australia with 80% tariffs on their barley.
The fault lines of a new world order are slowly asserting themselves as the fog begins to clear and as we emerge from our months of hibernation. As we have been ‘social distancing’ individually, the UK has socially distanced itself from the continent conclusively. As of 11 p.m. on the 31st of January, there is no going back despite the indefatigable Europhiles’ most vociferous lamentations. As a country we find ourselves drifting alone in the Atlantic at a watershed moment in our history. To whom do we now align? Is it to the East or the West from whence our economic salvation comes?
As Covid-19 began to introduce itself across the world, the reactions of each European country were telling. The 26th of March was the 25th anniversary of the Schengen Agreement which allowed free travel with the European Union. Instead of being a day to celebrate the free movement associated with ‘ever closer integration’, it was a day to reflect upon the cold reality that the moment an external threat appeared from the eastern horizon, borders showed their utility. The Schengen Agreement showed itself to be worth less than the paper it was written on, and certainly less useful at that.
The nation state reasserted itself. These states themselves did not turn to Brussels for assistance, but instead China was the first entity to offer help to the distressed governments of Europe. Even though Chinese testing kits and PPE have often been faulty, they have been gratefully received. The Serbian president said, ‘European solidarity does not exist… that was a fairy tale. The only country that can help us in this hard situation is the People’s Republic of China. To the rest of them, thanks for nothing.’ It is clear that even despite ‘Corona Bonds’, the EU does not have the financial heft of a global superpower.
As Beijing’s influence makes its way across Europe, a momentous decision presents itself to the UK. Financial aid and partnership rarely come without strings attached, but it is especially the case with the CCP. They have an insatiable appetite for controlling and censoring the narrative. The consequences for speaking against China’s response to the virus are potentially financially disastrous. Australia drafted a resolution for an impartial evaluation of responses to covid-19 from the World Health Assembly and received the backing of over 122 countries.
While not mentioning China, the message for greater scrutiny on the suspect control measures taken by the CCP was clear. One question amongst many, is why domestic flights from Wuhan were prohibited but international flight continued as if it was business as usual? Australia has already paid a price for standing up to the superpower they are currently reeling from China slapping 80% barley tariffs on Australia, potentially a $500 million blow to the economy. Douglas Murray suggests we take this as a challenge to imbibe as much Australian Chardonnay as we can stomach.
WATCH: China's tough tariffs on Australia are having devastating consequences for farmers
The financial benefits of a closer Sino-British relationship seem to be inversely related to the damage done to our moral credibility. Can the UK and our partner western democracies claim to stand up for liberalism and freedom whilst supporting and at times grovelling before the CCP. Cameron and Clegg made great efforts to build a strong Sino-British relationship to bolster the domestic economy. Boris Johnson, whose maiden speech at Greenwich exalted free trade as the answer to our financial woes, seems to have already altered his position. From giving China great influence over our tech infrastructure through the 5G Huawei deal, over the weekend Boris announced that it’s role would be significantly reduced and scaled down to zero by 2023. Now more and more Tory moderates are growing increasingly apprehensive about a closer partnership with China.
Boris will be visiting the US in one month for the G7 Summit. It is time for Britain to decide what position it will take on the CCP. Some national soul searching is long overdue. Are the financial inducements of further partnership and pandering to China worth the moral degradation it inevitably entails? Are we prepared to cosy up to a Government which has no hesitation to make dissidents ‘disappear’? Boris has taken the first step towards limiting our dependence on China for the development of our infrastructure. However, as there is a reckoning coming with the fallout of Covid-19, could it be time to join Trump (unthinkable I know) on the offensive?