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Britain’s plan for survival Our new defence strategy is a cautious assessment of a world dominated by China

Brave new world? Credit: Davit Kachkachishvili/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Brave new world? Credit: Davit Kachkachishvili/Anadolu Agency/Getty


March 17, 2021   6 mins

With the release of the long-awaited (and long-delayed) Integrated Review yesterday, British voters were finally privy to the longest and most developed insight yet seen into how the Government perceives the global system of the next decade, and how to secure Britain’s place in it. We can only speculate on how the Covid crisis affected its recommendations, yet its warnings of the “systemic risks” posed by future pandemics, and emphasis on managing global supply chain vulnerabilities, indicates the Government is addressing the challenges facing a globalised economy.  

The overall context of the Review is that of a global system marked by China’s rise and its corollary, America’s decline. Like Ham in Genesis ashamed by his father Noah’s nakedness, the British defence establishment finds the stark facts of American decline too shameful to face directly. Though American decline is referred to only obliquely through the polite euphemism of “a more competitive and multipolar world”, its consequences are the thread which runs through the entire review. 

It acknowledges that China’s growing international stature is by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today, “with major implications for British values and interests and for the structure and shape of the international order”. And with archetypal British understatement, it adds that “the fact that China is an authoritarian state, with different values to ours, presents challenges for the UK and our allies”.

While Russia is described as “the most acute threat to the UK” on our continent, it is China that threatens to overturn our strategic world. Addressing the hard facts of China’s rise squarely, the Review observes that “the international order is more fragmented, characterised by intensifying competition between states over interests, norms and values”. A defence of the status quo, it insists, “is no longer sufficient for the decade ahead”, and a strategic tilt towards the Indo Pacific is outlined.

Justifying Britain’s much-vaunted tilt, the Review observes that China’s rise is now the engine of world history: “by 2030, it is likely that the world will have moved further towards multipolarity, with the geopolitical and economic centre of gravity moving eastward towards the Indo-Pacific”. And it describes China’s increasing power and international assertiveness as “the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s”. 

Yet the nature and intensity of Britain’s new Indo-Pacific tilt seems less marked than either its proponents were urging or its detractors cautioning against. As much as China is Britain’s greatest strategic challenge, the Review also welcomes continued Chinese investment in the British economy, and commits to engaging with China on climate change, while promising action to prevent British vulnerability to Chinese economic pressure, and urging the construction of a new diplomatic framework to manage the increasingly tense relationship. In all this, the Review strikes a cautious and sensible middle ground between confrontation and engagement.

In reality, it is not vastly different to the much-criticised EU trade agreement with China asserting much the same things. We are more rhetorically opposed to China’s human rights abuses than the EU is, and it is right that the Review seeks to “ensure that British organisations are neither complicit in nor profiting from them”, while remaining realistic enough not to promise we can prevent them. Indeed, it does not commit Britain to any concrete goals to contain China’s rise other than in the vaguest terms — there is no commitment to defend Taiwan, for example, which given America’s growing anxieties over its own ability to do so, is only sensible.

Nevertheless, for all that the world is reorienting itself around China, the Review reaffirms the strategic centrality of the Special Relationship to Britain, situating the transatlantic alliance in the realm of eternal values as well as hard power. It claims that “the heart of the relationship is a human one: the flow of people and ideas between our countries, our shared history, and a common language”, and “also one of common values – a shared belief in democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms”. If any thought has been given to how America’s political ferment might lead to a divergence in our common values or interests, as our closest European allies are now finding, the Review gives no space to such considerations.

Indeed, in its commitment to preserving an open world system of free trade and purported “universal values”, the Review leads Britain into the 21st century committed — at least rhetorically — to the defence of 19th-century liberalism. A markedly Whig document, it asserts that we will “support open societies – characterised by effective governance and resilience at home, and which cooperate with other countries on the basis of transparency, good governance and open markets” with the intention to “shape an open, resilient global economy, restoring trust in free and fair trade”. The emphasis on, or at least aspiration towards, free trade is indeed one of the central planks of the review, which asserts that “the UK’s openness to the flow of trade, capital, data, ideas and talent is essential to our long-term prosperity”.

This may not reflect the realities of a rapidly deglobalising international system — or the scepticism of British voters — yet a degree of realism is permitted to intrude upon our aspirations. Much as we may wish to defend an open global economy, it cautions that more states will adopt economic statecraft as a lever in systemic competition,  involving “greater protectionism and economic nationalism” and “the deliberate use of economic tools … to target and undermine the economic and security interests of rivals”.

The sections on our military posture, including cuts to the numbers of jets and tanks have already grabbed headlines. But it is unclear how boosting our numbers of nuclear warheads will qualitatively enhance our security, other than deepening the defence relationship with the US and acting as an assertion that Britain still has teeth while we hurriedly rebuild our armed forces. Its promise that the Army will undertake a rapid modernisation programme, an urgent concern highlighted by the title of the recent Defence Committee paper on our armoured component, Obsolescent and Outgunned, is necessary, and should be carefully monitored following the Army’s manifold failings so far. 

The emphasis on training allies rather than committing to defend them with massed forces, on cyber warfare and the challenges and opportunities offered by the technological revolutions reshaping modern war are all sensible — and given our denuded military capabilities, perhaps as much a case of necessity as desire.

There are other new and welcome elements: the pronounced emphasis on scientific research as well as its insistence that green energy is a matter of national security and economic growth. Also strong are the sections on increased focus on space, as well as action on climate change, mass migration and terrorism. Its commitment to an open global internet in the face of tech authoritarianism, however, is counterposed by a need to defend Britain from “disinformation” — the similarities with the restricted virtual spaces of rival powers may end up greater than anticipated.

High on lofty aspirations, short on detailed policy and maps, the cautious, sober document realistically outlines the challenges facing Britain — without overstating our capacity to prevent them. If a criticism could be made, it is that the Review commits the UK to managing the deleterious consequences of a globalised international system it pledges itself to defending. The first principles underlying Britain’s strategic posture are not questioned. The problem of managing divergence between the Atlantic alliance and an increasingly independent-minded EU is not addressed. Nor is the likelihood that China’s statist example will prove inspiring to disaffected political entrepreneurs at home, with the CCP remaining largely indifferent to the political enthusiasms of the outside world as long as wealth and power continues to flow its way.

Perhaps the central, and so-far under-discussed claim that the Review makes, which underpins the choices it urges, is its assertion that in the new multipolar order, instead of a return to “Cold War-style blocs”,  the “influence of middle powers is likely to grow in the 2020s, particularly when they act together”. This immediately strikes the reader as a realistic outcome whose full implications are worthy of further consideration. This is the same analysis which drives the EU’s appreciation of a multipolar world as a strategic opportunity, though the policy choices Britain derives from this of cooperation between far-flung nation states, and not consolidation in a continental power bloc could not be more different. Which, if either, approach will prove to be the best bet can only be a matter of speculation.

The deepened strategic cooperation with France, Japan and Australia which the Review urges follows from this analysis, and offers the potential to enhance Britain’s place on the world stage. Though it frames these strategic decisions in terms of shared values (as it markedly does not when discussing Britain’s Middle Eastern alliances), this is a sensibly Realist appreciation of how to use shifting power dynamics to enhance Britain’s influence. Indeed, by underpinning its lofty rhetoric with a sober appreciation of the world as it actually is, the Review manages to balance the ethical and ideological impulses of international politics with a frank and cautious analysis of hard power. It can see Britain’s place in a dangerous and volatile new world, without over-promising our capacity to shape it. 


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

arisroussinos

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Terry Wilkinson
TW
Terry Wilkinson
3 years ago

A bit sad to see the above photo of British troops flying an upside down Union Flag.

Paul *
P*
Paul *
3 years ago

Do you think the people at UnHerd chose that pic in order to have a giggle at the UK’s military?

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul *

No, they wouldn’t have a clue either.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

“We can only speculate on how the Covid crisis affected its recommendations, yet its warnings of the “systemic risks” posed by future pandemics,”

And speaking of Britain’s King Henry, how about Charles, remember the London great black Plague of 1665? Remember it was fallowed by the great fire which burned a very great deal of London in 1666? AND was when Holland under William sailed up the Thames and burnt and stole the British war fleet?

Which 666 is the sign of the beast, and so fits right in with Revelations 13:16

“makes all men, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the slaves, that they should give them a mark upon their right hand or upon their forehead: (and) that no one should be able to buy or to sell but he who has the …”(Mark of the beast or its number which is 666) And is what Bill Gates is trying to do with his project ID 2020.

I think there is much to read between the lines on this story, I only made it through the first 3 paragraphs, so back to it.

Toby Josh
Toby Josh
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

1666 doesn’t quite fit with Revelations. It’s 1000 years off.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
3 years ago

Sorry, neither do I. How can one tell? I thought the Union Jack was symmetrical vertically.

Steve Collins
Steve Collins
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul *

Might be a signal of the troops distress

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Well spotted Sir!
Says it all really.

A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Perhaps. Seems a bit churlish of you to pick on that though Terry.
Upside down, sideways or back to front, at least the flag, service and duty means something to these Toms unlike 99.9% of their peers who are happily ashamed of the UK.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Can you identify the troops in the photo?
Obviously not the Guards or Paras.

A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
3 years ago

The (T)Rifles – not sure which one so its antecedents would be one of the many Light Infantry regiments or Green Jackets.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Ah..yes..The Black Mafia.

Tim Coote
Tim Coote
3 years ago

Isn’t that the signal that the group is in trouble and requesting assistance?

Terry Wilkinson
TW
Terry Wilkinson
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Coote

Yes, It’s a sign of distress or danger. I doubt that the chaps in the photo will ever carry the colours into battle (the last time that happened was in the 1880’s I believe) but you never know.

Last edited 3 years ago by Terry Wilkinson
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

1881, Laing’s Neck, South Africa. HM 58th Foot.

Mike Clark
Mike Clark
3 years ago

Waiting for the Royal Navy to come steaming to the rescue?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Clark

Not after the capture of HMS Blazer by French Pirates in 1993.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

Well spotted, also “Like Ham in Genesis ashamed by his father Noah’s nakedness, the British defence establishment”

This is not Ham being ashamed, but committing some crime against Noah, uncovering nakedness is all over the Bible; Leviticus 18,

None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home.

Leviticus 20, you know, the one King Henry VII used

“And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.”

So what is the writer saying? That Britain crept into USA’s tent and uncovered his nakedness? (ie, slept with his wife? Is this some kind of UK is in bed with China or something?) Coupled with the upside down flag…Hmmmm…..
edited to add an I to make it VIII

Last edited 3 years ago by Galeti Tavas
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

All a bit weird for the Ancient Greeks who preferred to go Gymnos- naked most of the time.

Colin Fisher
Colin Fisher
3 years ago

It a montage. This part of the image has been printed back to front. Look at the way the guy is wearing his beret compared to the rest of the troops.

Toby Josh
0
Toby Josh
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Fisher

The flag is upside down. A back to front reversal does not affect this.

Paul Gardner
Paul Gardner
3 years ago

Our armed forces are in distress though? 😉

Laurence Morris
Laurence Morris
3 years ago

Seems hard to see Russia as a real threat considering that its economy is about the size of Italy, its borders have been pushed back east, and it faces China via a big empty Siberia with its mineral riches that one day may prove too tempting a target.
To invade the UK, Russia will have to push through Poland and Germany or face the long sea route around Norway or through the Baltic. Russia seems more a natural ally – as it was in two world wars – than an enemy.
It is a right-wing authoritarian country, as are so many of the UK’s friends and allies, but it is no longer interested in spreading Communism throughout the world.

A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Agreed. Russia will continue to push its boundaries (literally and figuratively) but doesn’t have the economy or stability to commit to a full war with NATO or any other major power outside of its borders.
Even in Syria it has done so only supported by the Regime and Iran.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

“Even in Syria it has done so only supported by the Regime and Iran.”

Not the Regime, but the legitimate Government, just as their wretched opponents, the KSA.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

You failed to read the article, it said Biggest Threat ‘on this Continent’ was Russia, and this is true. The biggest threat in the world is a very different matter.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Russia won’t be invading the UK but it can cause a lot of trouble by, for example, trailing Trident submarines, cutting undersea telecommunications cables and violating our airspace. Don’t underestimate their ability to be very destabilising to the Baltic States.

Richard E
Richard E
3 years ago

The carriers were a mistake. Invest in the Cypriot bases, Gibraltar, conventional submarines and aircraft to operate from them instead. Maybe long range bombers for Diego Garcia and Cyprus..
We shouldn’t be anywhere East of Diega Garcia unless it’s in direct support of Australia and New Zealand.
Does anyone else think we get so little value for money, considering we are about the 4th biggest defence spender in the world. Maybe we should send a delegation to Israel to see how they do so much with so much less than we spend.
The only Western politician who understood the danger of China, and was willing to do something about it was Trump. The rest are paid off by China, both sides of the Atlantic. Just look at Cameron and his new career being an official cheerleader for China’s expansion.
With China’s expansion will come the loss of the wildlife of Africa, the re-colonisation of Africa and parts of Asia.
We need a ring of steel to take them on, the US, Japan, India and NATO, and hopefully Russia. And, we need a straight to nuclear policy if they ever try to take Taiwan, S Korea or gain dominance over the South China sea.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard E
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

The Carriers were NOT a big mistake.
They were yet another example of pouring English largesse into bankrupt, wee little Scotland.

The perpetrator on this occasion was none other than the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown Esq.

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Chris Hopwood
CH
Chris Hopwood
3 years ago

And one of these carriers is now our biggest flag flyer in the Indo Pacific!

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hopwood

Let’s hope she doesn’t go the same way as the PoW, Repulse, and others.
The RN’s record in the South China Sea is not outstanding.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

The Carriers were an excellent idea! They kept Britain as one the very few with a carrier fleet, and thus a seat at top tables, and showed the citizens UK had not fully given up and sunk into decay.

The insane part was not making them Nuclear propelled! That would perpetuate British engineering in that discipline, allow steam catapults for cheap and more able military aircraft, and give them independence of fuel. BUT NO – the stupid Greens hated nuk, so it is the neither here or there carrier.

Nuc energy gives USA 20% of its electricity, 10% of the global as it is totally green in reality, and the world is building many more, as they are completely needed to give base electricity for using wind and solar. Germany stupidly gave into the insane greens and built COAL! plants. Insane.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Despite their size, they are as you say, ‘poor man’s Carriers”.
However our place at the Top Table is guaranteed by Trident not Carriers.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Whenever anyone refers to the PoW and Repulse, as if that one engagement tells the whole story of the British Indian Ocean and Far East Fleets in WWII, I know they are either ignorant or hoping their audience will be.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Well there was also Hermes and off course good old Exeter.

Things only picked up
when the USN turned up.

In fact did the RN even manager to sink a single Japanese capital ship?

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

“As much as China is Britain’s greatest strategic challenge, the Review also welcomes continued Chinese investment in the British economy,”

This whole thing reads to me like if the Met, under Ms woke D**k wrote an Integrated Review on the future of policing. I see it as remarkably similar to what HMG was saying in the 1930s Britain.

I see China as creating “The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” and adding in Africa and parts of S America, Caribbean, and even Europe, as the ‘Continued Chinese Investment in British Economy’ is to be encouraged!

I sense a little of the hand of Quisling and Biden in its writing.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

The Royal Navy has not had a “conventional” submarine (ie one powered by diesel engines and electric motors) since the mid-1990s.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

I don’t think we can base a long-term strategy on the assumption the Cyprus SBAs will continue to be available.

Jake C
JC
Jake C
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

Who cares about what china is doing in Africa, none of our business.
Africans would tell you brits to go to hell

Giles Chance
GC
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Jake C

They wouldn’t if we had our chequebook out and ready.

Earl King
EK
Earl King
3 years ago

Rumors of Americas decline may be a bit overstated. While true we are spending more of our time looking inward and arguing whether cartoon characters represent a threat to Americans comity….we are not dead. The order has changed up a bit and China is a real threat. Militarily and Economically in all the Macro sense.. I have the same concern regarding; would we go to war to preserve Taiwanese independence? Similar to; would Germany really go to war with Russia to protect Lithuania?
The question for the world really is; do you want to get in to bed with China solely to make money? China is like a heroin dealer. The first one is free. Get you hooked. China wants to be in a position that they can do what ever they want to do with no consequences. One of those items is to further push Americas decline as the sole superpower. Reduce our economic advantage. They do it by stealing. At what point with they go to war over it. Finally, Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine has kept the world from nuclear war. Solely having Nuclear Weapons as a deterrent may prevent total destruction….but without a conventional threat China will just eat at Britishs interests by co-opting them.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

The 14 USN Ohio class subs and their first strike launch of 336 Trident II D-5 Ballistic Missiles will knock out 50-60% of China’s population.
Checkmate in one.
.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago

I’m sure there are a couple of American admirals and a few Pentagon people who are already advocating such an action. Have a look at Dr Strangelove if you haven’t already,

Bryan Dale
BD
Bryan Dale
3 years ago

America’s decline, and that of the rest of the west, is by design. President Trump recognized that and during his term worked to reverse it. Now thanks to the stolen election, China is back in charge. Huge government spending, stupid so-called green energy policies and business destroying regulations are causing the decline. Britain is in a race to see how fast it can go down.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Sounds like a lot of waffle and predictions that will, sooner or later, be upended by ‘events’. But this seem already to be outdated :
‘While Russia is described as “the most acute threat to the UK” on our continent,’
The most acute threat on our continent to the UK is surely the EU, or even Scotland, should it leave the UK, given that is is home to the nuclear subs etc.

Richard E
Richard E
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

China is the biggest threat.
If the Russians woke up, they’d also realise China is their biggest threat too.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

Agreed. The Russians pinched quite a bit East Asia around the Amur River, in the late 19th century, and the Chinese want it back, pronto!

Barry Brother
BB
Barry Brother
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

The biggest threat to world peace is Kim Jong Un, or rather the power behind him – his sister Kim Yo Jong.
She is behind most of the outrages against the North Korean People. Kim J U is just the mouthpiece for his sisters power dreams.

Andrew Barton
AB
Andrew Barton
3 years ago

China is always mentioned as a constant in a changing world, but can we be sure the regime will not collapse as affluence spreads through the country? This could change things considerably.

J Bryant
JB
J Bryant
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Barton

That’s a good point. China’s rise over the past twenty years is truly remarkable. They certainly know how to exploit weakness in the West, and the covid crisis played to their strengths.
But China faces major internal problems. They have a huge population and a large cohort of elderly (or soon to be elderly) people. There is a significant gender imbalance as a result of their earlier one-child policy, and they struggle to fully employ the many poor people who travel from rural areas to work in and around cities. Their environment is also heavily polluted.
A combination of these factors could destabilize China over the next decade or so. Not to mention the possibility that Xi dies and there is an internal power struggle or even change in direction.
Short term, China is a major threat. We’ll have to see how it fares over the next couple of decades.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A century ago Japan’s rise was “truly remarkable “ and look what happened to them.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Barton

For over 20 years I have been reading articles saying that China and/or its economy will collapse for this or that reason. It’s not going to happen. In fact, I would argue that affluence is the basis of the people’s acceptance/tolerance of the CCP.

Giles Chance
GC
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Why is China our enemy ? Only because the Pentagon wish to make it so. I think you are all missing the point about China. I forecast that in 30 years we’ll all be integrating nicely into a world dominated fairly equally by America and China, with the EU playing a balancing role, as it does now.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

If Ham was embarrassed by his father’s nakedness how would he feel about the opium wars or support for the Taiping rebellion where c25m died, mostly civilians? If we do intend to engage with China in a “hard but fair” commercial relationship we need to make equivalence between the North Korean, Khmer and VK atrocities under CCP and those above. What we must not do is tell them all our mechanised military is obsolete and outgunned, oops, too late. Srsly if we don’t learn from PRC and deal with them as they do with us we’ll be at best a sideshow and at worst a client state of PRC like most of Africa already is and Italy soon to be.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

I do not understand your lead sentence. An interesting fact(oid) is when the USA sent the 16 B-25s off the Carriers to bomb Tokyo as a gesture, they had to fly onto China to land. Japan killed an estimated 250,000 Chinese in retaliation for this outrage.

But then is then, and from reading the article I get a huge feel of Chanberlain policy of 1938, and appeasement, which he believed was from a position of strength, but was merely giving in.

Mike Fraser
MF
Mike Fraser
3 years ago

The Union Flag, flying upside down as is shown here, is used very rarely as the message “am in need of urgent assistance”. Does the author actually understand the significance of how disrespectful this picture is?

Barry Brother
BB
Barry Brother
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Fraser

By the look of things, I very much doubt it.
When I was in the RAF, if I’d flown the Flag upside down at Reveille, I’d have been up in front of Old Joe, the Station Warrant Officer, before breakfast, and literally quaking in my boots. I would not, on pain of a fate worse than death, have made that mistake a second time
Saya nothing for the Regimental Sergeant Major who let this happen!!!!

Mike Fraser
MF
Mike Fraser
3 years ago
Reply to  Barry Brother

i think you might find that this upside down union flag is superimposed over the picture by, I presume unherd who should be ashamed of themselves, as you quite rightly say no Sergeant Major would evr let that happen.

Giles Chance
GC
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Fraser

Then there must be a good argument for installing a Regimental Sergeant-Major in the UNHERD offices, to ensure that such a thing could never happen again.

Miro Mitov
MM
Miro Mitov
3 years ago

The reason behind the announced increase in British nuclear warheads is obscure, but deductible. During the recent negotiations for the ‘New START’ extension between the USA and Russia, the USA did want to bring in China as a signatory to the treaty, which the Chinese outright refused. Thus, the Chinese were free to build up their nuclear arsenal, whereas the USA bound by the ‘New START’ provisions could not do so. So the easiest way to deal with any potential disbalance between Russian/Chinese and USA  nuclear arsenals is to allow (or order) its British subordinate, not bound by the ‘New START’,  to increase its own number of nuclear warheads to a level approaching the Chinese.
In that aspect the Review is rather telling as how British defense strategy is shaping and who is calling the shots within it. Britain is being drawn into the anti-Chinese block, regardless whether it wants it or not, and it tries to balance that somewhat with its desire to still do business with China and benefit from its vast market.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Miro Mitov

We’ve only got one choice to make: in 50 years time, do we want to be living in a society that looks rather like China or rather like America? Answer that and our top-level strategy is determined.

Giles Chance
GC
Giles Chance
3 years ago

Totally disagree: our society does not look at all like America, and there is no reason at all why it would ever look like China in 50 or 100 years time. I know both countries well and am a professor in both.

john freeman
JF
john freeman
3 years ago

Yes, the broad white stripe should be upwards at the staff.

Peter Branagan
PB
Peter Branagan
3 years ago

Thanks Aris for an excellent summing up of the Review.
It’s great to see the sudden change by the UK government from overt hostility to China to a rational realistic stance.
A far cry from the rantings one reads in the comments section of the DT and Unherd (sometimes).

Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

The west cannot do anything about the continued rise of China, but that is no reason whatsoever for the UK not to thrive regardless. Becoming intimidated by China’s economic heft because of it’s much greater population is not the right response. The focus should be on worrying about China’s technological rise, and here the UK is perfectly capable of holding it’s own, provided no serious stretegic errors are made. To survive and thrive, tech supremacy is the only game in town.

What I have never been convinced of is that a straightforward interpretation of the numbers game predicts real world results. What I mean by this, is that the numbers game predicts that first India and then Africa will next generate large scale innovation simply because of population growth, but I don’t believe that for a second (although I hope I’m wrong). The conundrum is, that over the last millenia the east and far-east has had vastly greater populations than Europe, and Europe had an equally large component of illiterate and malnourished agri workers, yet it was Europe that turned into a sausage factory of technological innovation and advancements in the arts and humanities, not the east. Amongst the questions this raises for me is: why? And why should that change in the future? Why should not the UK be able to repeat it’s past success in innovation again, what’s the preventer? It is easy to come up with explanations built around narratives of the superiority of one political system over another etc, but for myself, I don’t buy any of that.

And it is undoubtedly the case that Chinese society is changing fast under the hood, away from the muscular assertiveness it projects abroad. That by no means implies the change underway there will be benign for the UK, but we can hope. I think there are already indications of a major power struggle brewing between those at the head of the CCP currently and those who own the tech giants in China. Ultimately, this will turn, not on the politics, but on tech resourcing. There is a global dynamic that will keep ratcheting up as the years go by, that the most successful nations will be those that can attract the most and best global tech and STEM talent. China, huge as it is, cannot supply this from it’s own population, talented and ambitious as it is. At the moment, the Chinese tech giants are not independent of the US tech giants. This is the US’ big lever. If the Chinese tech companies decide they cannot locally build the tech they depend on (or at least not quickly enough), then they will look to disengage from the CCP. A similar dynamic comes into play if ties into the CCP prevent China’s tech companies from expanding abroad because of the CCPs toxicity. This would be the point of maximum danger not just for China but for the rest of the world. A turn towards brutal internal suppression in China by the CCP would be disastrous for us.

I doubt if pretty much anyone would agree with me, but the subtext of all this is that many of the societal convolutions we are already seeing and are going to see, are not about political systems per se, but about the global flows of talent in demand, and the way that talent will be able to dictate terms and conditions at the expense of individual nation states. The core of the coming global tension is not between nations, but between the globally mobile high-skills, high-end strata and the much much bigger numbers of left behinds.

Last edited 3 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Jake C
JC
Jake C
3 years ago

I can’t stand these pointless calls to “shared values” ,flagrantly hypocritical considering UK relations with Gulf states.

I have no interest in “shared values”
I feel much closer to France than hysterical “critical race theory ” USA.

I really don’t see how Russia is threat, I say we should only worry about Russia if the Germans are(they are a lot closer).

Giles Chance
GC
Giles Chance
3 years ago

This is a good review of a skilful piece of work by Bojo and his minions. Britain can’t hide behind America any more, nor behind the EU, and the recognition of China as central to global affairs – economic and geopolitical – going forward is a welcome piece of realism given the loudness of the shrill voices demanding decoupling. Well done Boris, and let’s see what happens.

Last edited 3 years ago by Giles Chance
Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
3 years ago

Russia will continue to distract it’s population from desperate economic issues ( economy the
size of Holland!) with Ukraine but would destroy itself if it invaded Europe. China doesn’t want to ‘invade’ Europe. That said, history tells China it has had 100 yrs of humiliation and wants 100 yrs of power so, for example, it’s currently dominating Myanmar for example ( naval facilities to protect trade routes). Morality doesn’t come in to it. Its abstract model, is the British Empire, which we were pulled by trade into creating. We’ve grown out of that but China hasn’t. It is imperialist. We had our empire whilst ordinary Brits had little personal freedom. One wonders what 500m,say, newly middle class Chinese will think about their individual freedom? Crystal balls are pretty cloudy on this I think.