Politicizing economic issues won't bring back British Empire

(Global Times) 08:39, August 01, 2023

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

While it is true that the entry of Chinese-made electric cars has brought fiercer competition to the European market, which has unnerved some European countries, it is even more upsetting to see some in Europe have gone too far by distorting market competition into a "security risk."

In a report set to be shared with carmakers and regulators, Professor Jim Saker, president of the Institute of the Motor Industry based in Hertford, UK, warned that Britons face "major security issues" from Chinese cars, The Telegraph reported on Sunday.

A coming influx of Chinese electric cars represents a "security risk" as they could be remotely controlled to "paralyze" Britain, and there was "no way" of stopping Chinese cars coming under remote control, Saker said, according to The Telegraph.

Saker's remarks lay bare nothing but the panic and anxiety of the British automobile industry about the upcoming competition in the electric car sector. Maybe as Saker cannot find other justified excuses to demean Chinese-made electric cars, security becomes the only choice, no matter how absurd it is.

Perhaps some in the UK have already known deep inside, but they are reluctant to admit that the British auto industry is completely overwhelmed by the wave of electric cars. Far from seizing on the global electric car transition, British carmakers are waning instead.

According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, an automotive trade association in the UK, 775,014 cars were produced in Britain in 2022, the lowest annual output since 1956. That is 9.8 percent less than 2021 and 40.5 percent below the 2019 pre-pandemic level.

Moreover, the UK is falling far behind in the global race to manufacture batteries. Britishvolt, UK's homegrown electric-vehicle battery supplier, was launched in 2019 but went bankrupt earlier this year, which means the country's efforts to transform itself into a post-Brexit clean car haven have failed to produce any substantial results.

An influx of foreign brands may be one of the reasons behind the failure, but that doesn't justify any of the security reasons to create obstacles for Chinese-made electric cars. If anything, a fair and reasonable market environment is what the UK should create for its remaining economic dignity.

It is no longer the era when the British Empire colonized the world, and indulging in its colonial-era glories to reject reality won't help the UK to find the right development path.

In any competition, one must speak with strength. If the UK views China as a competitor, then UK has to improve its own competitiveness and try to compete in a fair environment, instead of smearing Chinese products with unfounded security claims.

Similar absurd voices have surfaced not only in the UK, but also in other European countries. With the success of Chinese-made electric cars in some European markets due to their advanced technology and affordable prices, there are voices playing up the "threat" posed by Chinese-made electric cars in Europe. The emergence of such hype is, of course, a bad sign pointing to the rising pan-security competition in the European market. Blocking the entry of Chinese-made electric cars by hyping "security risks" is nothing but another form of politicizing market problems, which are supposed to be addressed in proper and professional ways.

Experience shows that politicizing economic issues usually gets ugly and it's a dead end if anyone attempts to solve their own difficulties by cracking down on others.

Therefore, vigilance is needed against the potential politicization of the electric car competition.

A failure to properly handle the issue may hurt China's interests, and also be detrimental to Europe's transition to clean energy.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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