Wil­liamson wags limp fin­ger at China

Global Times - - Editorial -

Bri­tish Sec­re­tary of State for De­fence Gavin Wil­liamson showed his tough stance against China as he wrapped up his visit to Aus­tralia. “We shouldn’t be blind to the am­bi­tion that China has and we’ve got to de­fend our na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests,” he told ABC, adding that “We’ve got to en­sure that any form of ma­lign in­tent is coun­tered and we see in­creas­ing chal­lenges – it’s not just from China, it’s from Rus­sia, it’s from Iran.”

Wil­liamson in­di­cated that he has learned “a lot of lessons” from Aus­tralia on “deal­ing with some of the chal­lenges that China poses.” He also con­firmed a Royal Navy war­ship will sail from Aus­tralia through the South China Sea to as­sert nav­i­ga­tion rights.

China has never ir­ri­tated Bri­tain on se­cu­rity. Wil­liamson’s rhetoric of con­tain­ing China is sur­pris­ing to many Chi­nese, es­pe­cially af­ter the two coun­tries agreed to em­brace an en­hanced ver­sion of the “Golden Era” of re­la­tions dur­ing Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s China visit.

Chi­nese strate­gists are psy­cho­log­i­cally pre­pared that Bri­tain, while show­ing good­will to China, may pro­voke it from time to time. Bri­tain has been dou­ble-faced in its Bei­jing pol­icy. It’s ea­ger to deepen trade and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion with China but mean­while never for­gets its iden­tity as a so-called “noble” West­ern coun­try. Bri­tain some­times acts capri­ciously against China out of fear that it may be marginal­ized af­ter Brexit.

China is fac­ing a split Bri­tain, with May and Wil­liamson per­haps rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent diplo­matic ap­proaches to Bei­jing. This is typ­i­cal West­ern diplo­macy to­ward China. Bei­jing is aware and is adapt­ing.

By act­ing tough against China, Bri­tain’s Min­istry of De­fence is try­ing to val­i­date its ex­is­tence and grab at­ten­tion.

Free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight has never been a prob­lem in the South China Sea. Con­firm­ing the nav­i­ga­tion of a Royal Navy ship in the re­gion, Wil­liamson sent provoca­tive sig­nals and was im­me­di­ately asked whether the ship would sail within 12 nau­ti­cal miles of Chi­nese ter­ri­tory. We want to ask fur­ther: Is it meant to be a mil­i­tary provo­ca­tion against China send­ing the naval vessel into the South China Sea? Wil­liamson needs to state the pur­pose clearly. If not provo­ca­tion, the Royal Navy should be­have mod­estly when pass­ing through the South China Sea. As the Royal Navy has been hit by news such as a leaky air­craft car­rier and the UK gov­ern­ment has a tight bud­get, it ap­pears a dif­fi­cult mis­sion for the Royal Navy to come all this way to pro­voke China.

Chi­nese so­ci­ety is will­ing to de­velop friendly co­op­er­a­tion with Bri­tain and doesn’t har­bor a men­tal­ity of try­ing to ri­val the coun­try’s mil­i­tary. If Wil­liamson in­sists on chal­leng­ing China, it seems Bei­jing has to re­spond.

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