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25 Jul, 2019 18:34

BoJo’s openness to Chinese trade could create ‘friction’ with Washington

BoJo’s openness to Chinese trade could create ‘friction’ with Washington

Boris Johnson’s desire to boost economic ties with China aligns with current UK policy, analysts told RT, but the open way in which the new PM is pursuing relations with Beijing could create tensions with Washington.

Shortly before being selected to be Britain’s next prime minister, Johnson said in an interview with a Chinese-language broadcaster that the UK is “very enthusiastic” about Beijing’s massive infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He added that London seeks economic cooperation with all nations, but is “particularly” open to Chinese investment.

His comments don’t deviate from the UK’s longstanding policy of cultivating closer economic ties with Asia, analysts said. However, his vocal advocacy for developing such ties with Beijing could land Johnson in trouble with Washington, which views China as a major economic rival and security threat.

A common sense policy

The UK’s interest in fostering economic cooperation with China should come as no surprise, political analyst Andrew Leung argued.

The Belt and Road Initiative “points to Europe” and London would be unwise to ignore the project’s economic potential, he said. For Johnson, highlighting potential deals with China could be a way to reassure those who doubt the economic feasibility of Brexit.

According to Leung, Johnson is essentially telling the British public: “Don’t worry, even after we leave the EU, here is this big China market, and as a financial center, we can benefit from a closer relationship with China.”

Also on rt.com Pro-China Boris? Britain’s new PM ‘enthusiastic’ about Beijing’s new Silk Road

Richard A. Werner, Professor of Banking and Finance at De Montfort University, shared a similar view, noting that BoJo’s remarks align with current policy but may carry more urgency as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

“The UK has always been quite open to Chinese investment,” Werner noted, adding that Brexit likely “increases the importance of [developing trade with Asia].”

Rubbing Washington the wrong way?

While seeking economic opportunities with China may suit the UK’s interests, the policy is likely to anger Britain’s transatlantic ally, which views Beijing as a nemesis.

“This British stance is in contrast to the US attitude, so of course it will create some friction between the US and UK,” said Werner, predicting that Johnson’s enthusiasm for bolstering UK-China ties could exacerbate the touchy issue.

The budding economic partnership will also jeopardize the UK’s place in the “Five Eyes” intelligence network, Leung said, pointing to the fact that the US has accused Huawei – which is helping to develop 5G networks across Europe – of having ties to the Chinese government.

For London, the aim will be to pursue cooperative relations with both Washington and Beijing, Leung stated. “The UK is going to build up closer relationships with its traditional allies, but also with China, with India, and in fact will pivot more towards Asia.”

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