Tom Tugendhat has a piece in The Times today in which the headline says “Britain can counter China’s threat to international order.” Its utterly delusional I’m afraid.
Let’s start from Britain’s place in the world and specifically with regard to China and Hong Kong. Tough talk is not enough, you also need to wield a big stick. Morally and practically we have hardly no stick at all and waving the little one we have will be ineffective and risible.
It could have been different. As a leading member of the European Union and a significant contributor to the Union’s economic and political power and influence Britain would have been a player. Add in our special connection with Hong Kong and collectively you have a force even the Chinese would listen to. On our own we are an also ran.
The EU nations and the United States have mutually beneficial ties to China which it would damage both sides to loosen. Collectively the EU can along with the US be a force for good and change. Don’t hold you breath this will happen quickly , easily or significantly but there is a chance. Whilst this is underway Britain will be sitting ignored on the sidelines. Don’t kid yourself the Chinese think we matter.
Hong Kong is a specifically British issue morally but we have zero chance of being a force for good. When we handed the then Colony’s people over to a hostile power stateless and with no protections that mattered we surrendered any moral authority we might have had. The offer of right of U.K. residence now and (maybe) nationality later is far too little and far too late. Hong Kongers will treat it with the contempt it deserves. Those that leave HK (some will) will go to Canada or Australia countries that have, in contrast to Britain, welcomed them and where there are large Chinese communities that can effortlessly absorb them.
We cannot know what Little England’s place in the world will be in the future but to sententiously suggest that on our own we are still up there with the big boys is preposterous. Our soon to be divided Kingdom has lost its Empire and surrendered the only alternative role with logic – as a major player in a uniting Europe. No doubt we will still bang a few desks and opine pompously. But nobody, least of all the Chinese, will listen