What message does deploying UK’s Aircraft carrier to South China Sea send?

The May government in London are going through a crisis as the Brexit dilemma extends yet again. The deal, no deal or even propositions for a second referendum keeps the May administration occupied in the parliament. With significant dissatisfaction across parties including Theresa May’s own Conservatives makes the government one of the most dysfunctional governments in recent UK history. By losing back to back votes on May’s Brexit proposals this is turning out to be a big embarrassment not for May and her party but for Britain in the eyes of Europe and rest of the world.

To add the complications, May’s cabinet seems in disarray. With the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond pursuing a friendlier approach with China and emphasising many times on engaging with China in commerce, but, conversely from the same cabinet the Defence minister Gavin Williamson is pursuing a more hawkish approach with China and sees China as a threat to Britain. The decision to send the aircraft carrier to the South China sea was attributed to Williamson.

Further, Chancellor Hammond has heavily criticised the Defence minister and regarded his anti-China speech as an “idiotic speech”. This displays the dysfunctional situation within the May administration. As PM May remains busy with answering the Parliamentary questions her cabinet is falling out with each other on severe issues such as strategies concerning the world’s second-largest economy.

This event proves two things. Firstly, the UK government is dysfunctional and is utterly incompetent in controlling its own party let alone the opposition and the parliament. Further, no functional dialogue with the rest of the country or even Europe. This shows a lack of strength as the never-ending negotiations with the EU are still ongoing. Further makes the UK appear as a disunited and divided state with no clear objective. The government is neither winning at home or abroad.

Secondly, this shows that the May government is utterly incompetent in organising its own cabinet and party, they are so weak that the hawkish elements in the cabinet/party are getting their way by simply following an American outlook, regardless of UK’s own interests. The UK clearly has a large amount of trade with China, the Trump administrations’ Trade war on China is now reflecting on the UK and making the UK more like a client state of the US. Yet again the UK seems like a dependent state of the USA and is incapable of pursuing its own interests in the international arena.

With this rather embarrassing debacle for the UK, considering its military capability compared to the one of China it makes the UK look rather out of place and overreaching its capabilities. Often the UK navy ships, submarines and aircraft carriers are at the docks for fixing. This raises a fundamental question on the UK’s current naval capability as it decides to play gunboat diplomacy with China.

Britain’s armed forces are at their smallest number since the Napoleonic wars. At about 80,000, they would not even fill Wembley stadium’s 90,000 capacity on cup final day.

Tom Clifford

While at home, the government is divided the parliament is dysfunctional and the EU’s treatment on the Brexit proposal is turning out to be rather disastrous, they decided to pick a fight with an emerging superpower. The UK government, as a result, leans once again on the USA’s protection and displayed the lack of backbone in their strategic thinking. With this display of attempting to bark at China, the UK proves the point that it is in the position of a vassal state of the US. This has been a continuous trend for the UK to follow word for word policy of the US in the global stage.

The UK governments in the recent past shamelessly followed the US agenda without regards to its own interests starting from the first gulf war, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, its position against Iran, Syria, Libya, Russo-phobia, deciding to sell arms to the Saudi Arabian military after the sales were completed accused the Saudis of acting irresponsibly in Yemen, and now Sino-phobia. All these examples were first carried out by the US and quickly followed on by its most trusted ‘partner’ the UK who often jumps on the US bandwagon without a second thought. This example of sending its aircraft carrier into the South China sea further illustrates the UK’s helpless position in the international arena.

This bandwagon strategy and over-reliance on its protectorate state the USA is making the UK lose its influence across the world and more importantly in Europe. Often the European countries stand up to American policies if it is conflicting with their self-interests, however, this is ever absent from the UK and they obey the wishes of the US without a second thought. This is damaging the reputation of the UK as a reliable partner for any country outside the UK-US alliance.

No country can take the UK’s word or agreement as a fact as the US has significant leverage on any deal that may be struck with the UK. This makes the UK a risky partner for any other state. Therefore, the current government is making damaging the UK even more than the Brexit may be causing. The continuation of the bandwagon strategy is turning the UK as a lacklustre, out of place state in the international arena. It will not be long before the majority of the world will start to question the UK’s position in the UN security council and its relevance in international relations.

Image Credit: Financial Times

Sources: Financial Times; The Globalist

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