New UK leader needs to be pragmatic rather than further souring ties with China: China Daily editorial

(Chinadaily.com.cn) 08:21, September 06, 2022

Liz Truss, the United Kingdom's next prime minister, will have to hit the ground running, as the country faces myriad challenges due to the changing geopolitical landscape and previous governance failures.

The most pressing issues are the UK's ailing economy and cost of living crisis, which have been exacerbated by skyrocketing inflation and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Inflation is forecast to almost double to 18.6 percent by the beginning of next year, while prohibitively high energy bills risk causing a humanitarian crisis as winter approaches.

The latest indication of the UK's economic woes is its declining economic power globally. According to the latest gross domestic product figures from the International Monetary Fund, India has overtaken the UK to be the world's fifth-largest economy.

Yet given the populist rhetoric that dominated the head-to-head final round of the leadership contest and the glaring lack of specific policies mooted during the candidates' debates, it remains to be seen if a new hand on the helm brings any significant change of approach to that of the previous administration.

The ruling Conservative Party, whose members decided the outcome of the leadership contest, seem enthralled by the notion that they can summon up the spirit of Margaret Thatcher's heyday — right-wing, small-government economics and an aggressive foreign policy with the UK happy to play the role of junior partner in a "special relationship" with the United States — rather than actually demand solutions to the country's worsening woes.

But with the country effectively drifting aimlessly without a government since former prime minister Boris Johnson was forced to resign after caroming from one scandal after another and subsequently going AWOL, the country needs pragmatism and practical policies, not outdated ideology.

That extends to its China policy. Having designated China as a threat to the UK's national security while promising to reshape foreign policy when talking the talk to become the latest leader of the party and the country, holding to that stance when in office will not be in the UK's best interests.

A lot has changed since 2015, when there was optimism on both sides that "a golden age" had just begun for Sino-UK relations. The glow of that once bright picture has conspicuously dimmed since then as a result of the Johnson government toeing Washington's confrontational China line. In the hope of securing a trade deal with the US to help extricate the UK from the jaws of the monstrous Brexit mess the country brought upon itself, being tough on China was seen as a way to curry favor with Washington.

With the golden-era optimism dashed on the rocks of the UK mimicking Washington in word and deed, there is little hope of a change in fortune for the UK's relations with China unless remedial reflection is forthcoming from the new government in London.

(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)


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