But is this move anything new, in real terms? Or is it part of a new world order that all western powers have, in reality, signed up to regardless?
And so, finally, the cat is out of the bag. Decades of mystery over whether western states genuinely believed in their own human rights doctrine imposed on the developed world are exposed as folly. Or at least for the new, shiny post-Brexit Britain, anxious to climb a few notches on the world’s economic stage.
Remarkably, in a leaked video, which the UK foreign office claim has been ‘edited’, Britain’s foreign minister has admitted that human rights will no longer be an issue which stops the UK investing heavily in countries which in the past it scorned for being below par. Translated, this means, the UK will do all it can to beef up its trade, in particular, with China. There are other countries also, which this new rationale will affect, positively – Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt being the obvious contenders – with probably no real change in relations with Russia which Joe Biden has already indicated has to be the new bogeyman for those wishing to benefit from special relations with the U.S. And Britain certainly wants that, at least, with a new trade deal expected soon to be agreed by Sleepy Joe’s administration.
But is this move anything new, in real terms? Or is it part of a new world order that all western powers have, in reality, signed up to regardless? Certainly the EU itself struggles to identify any credible human rights doctrine as quite apart from showing shocking inconsistency with countries that it turns a blind eye with to those that it obsesses over on a daily basis, it doesn’t seem to be able to enforce or implement any policy. Except of course with its own idiotic sanctions in places like Syria, which few care to remember, was about to sign an association agreement with the EU in 2008, before relations went distinctly cold again after a UN report linked Assad to the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in Lebanon in 2005.
Britain’s move is all about the money. In the same week as the bombshell video was splashed by the UK press of the foreign minister saying that Britain really couldn’t afford not to be part of the tiger economies which have poor human rights records, it was also revealed by the fringe press that the same government department plans to axe funding to scores of anti-corruption schemes around the world. Those two actions alone debunk once and for all that the UK is faintly interested in regimes’ torture treatments of political dissidents, illegal detention, rape or even plain old-fashioned murder of political advisories around the world as long as there’s good business to be done by Britain.
But in fact, it’s nothing new even for the UK, let alone the West, even though the wet Washington Post still dedicates column inches to Joe Biden’s plan to use human rights as a central theme to building a new set of relations in the Middle East. Both the former and latter are pure BS.
Human rights was never genuinely a precondition to the West having relations with backward countries dotted around the world. The emphasis was always on trade. And for those countries which didn’t have much to trade, you don’t need to look too closely to see how much gravitas was placed on improving human rights.
With China it’s different. The West is stuck in a straight jacket which it can’t really wriggle out of, without truly causing self harm. China owns so much U.S. treasury bonds and is able to easily devalue its own country when it wants that this alone is enough to cause serious problems for the U.S. economy. Then add to the mix that since Covid, the Chinese economy just goes from strength to strength and is set to clean up on even more arms deals around the world as more and more countries realise that buying U.S. arms comes with so many strings attached that for many, the price is too high.
The dilemma for the West to back off from China but them lose out on it being a growth market for western goods and investment is over. Britain’s sober decision to overlook human rights concerns and trade up is one which will ultimately be replicated by the U.S. and the EU as Biden’s camp is already realising that America needs to be with China rather than against it, on so many levels, least of all security in the South China Sea.
But this will take some time, and so, one could argue that the UK is way ahead on China.
For the moment, in the coming days, there will be some airing of grievances as the U.S. balances its priorities to articulate to Beijing where it is unhappy, while also trying to convince China’s leaders that it genuinely wants better relations than the all-time low which the Biden administration inherited from the Trump years.
“China is using coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said at the start of a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong recently.
All, it would seem, still based on human rights as a weapon or tool to diplomatic gain. No such nonsense coming out of the UK foreign office press machine. The difference, one supposes, is that the U.S. is allowed the luxury of sounding off and feeding handout packages of fake news to its shoddy cabal of foreign correspondents while Britain’s media stopped writing up all that guff so long ago, that America is left alone on narrative, if not the action which it would like to take. British diplomacy is, like British media, at such an all-time low, that Ambassadors now working around the world have almost no significance to world events anyway. It’s got so bad, that they usually have to entirely fabricate events and important talking points with the help of an assistant and a smartphone. Britain has got real about what matters though, at least. It really is all about the money.