UK to counter China by expanding influence in the Indo-Pacific region


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

BRITAIN wants to expand its influence among countries in the Indo-Pacific region to try to moderate China’s global dominance, a document laying out post-Brexit foreign policy priorities will say on Tuesday (16).

The document will also underline the importance of strong ties with the US, and British media said an increase was planned to Britain’s nuclear arsenal and that Russia would be named as a top security threat.

Britain’s biggest foreign and defence policy review since the end of the Cold War will set out how prime minister Boris Johnson wants to be at the forefront of a reinvigorated, rules-based international order based on cooperation and free trade.

Calling the Indo-Pacific ‘increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world’, the government highlighted a planned British aircraft carrier deployment to the region and said a previously postponed visit to India would go ahead in April.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab acknowledged Britain’s attempts to influence Beijing had been marginal so far, and said cooperating with other nations in the region gave it a better chance of persuading China to play by established rules.

“We’re far better acting in concert with clusters of like-minded countries – not just the Europeans and the Americans – but more broadly to try and have the maximum impact and moderating impact on China, because it is sensitive to its reputation,” Raab told Times Radio.

The US has also underlined the importance of the Indo-Pacific region under president Joe Biden and warned against China’s growing assertiveness, and the EU also hopes to deepen ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific.

The British government has said the ‘Integrated Review’ will show that Britain, which left the EU last year, still has international clout after Brexit and will define a new era for the country.

The document will be scrutinised for evidence of how the government will deliver on Johnson’s promises as Britain copes with the economic and political fallout of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Sun newspaper reported the document would raise the upper limit on Britain’s number of nuclear warheads to 260 from 180.

Sky News said the report would classify Russia as an “active threat” and take a more nuanced approach to China as a “systemic challenge” – a reference to its authoritarian, rather than democratic, leadership and its economic influence.

In 2015, Britain’s then finance minister, George Osborne, predicted a “golden” era in Chinese-British relations. But ties have frayed over issues including Beijing’s handling of former British colony Hong Kong and security concerns around Chinese investment in Britain.

Raab told Sky News Britain would like to have a positive relationship with China but not at the expense of upholding its values.

A statement previewing the report underlined ‘the importance of our relationship with the US’ alongside the defence of democracy and human rights, and safety from terrorism.

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