Playing the ‘Taiwan card’ is a dead end for the UK

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By Zhang Yi Source: Global Times

Greg Hands Photo: AFP

Countries whose international clout is either weakening or fails to match their ambitions have found a new “card” to play – Taiwan.

Media on the island of Taiwan reported that Greg Hands, the UK minister of state at the Department of International Trade, is paying a virtual visit to Taiwan on Wednesday and Thursday, in a bid to boost trade and educational ties with the island. In September, during a parliamentarian session, Hands vowed to commence trade talks between the UK and the island.

How much the UK truly values the island of Taiwan is worth debating, but what is certain is the UK’s approach to the island is meant to irritate China.

The relationship between the UK and China is tricky.

On the one hand, the UK is eager to craft its global diplomatic system post-Brexit, which requires it to engage in deep and close cooperation with China. On the other, being a member of the Five Eyes alliance and attaching itself closely to the US anti-China chariot, the UK bears US pressure as well as domestic anti-China factors to take on China on Huawei and Hong Kong.

The UK, like other US allies and partners, lives under the US shadow. Even the US does not dare to break the bottom line of bilateral relations with China and infringe upon China’s core interests, let alone the UK. Only by playing the petty “Taiwan card” to instigate China can the UK show its presence on the world stage, like the ongoing virtual visit. This is the UK’s common diplomatic tactic in its relations with China.

Relations between China and the UK are not reciprocal. China has the upper hand, be it in education or trade. Because of the Brexit saga and the COVID-19 quandary, the British leadership and influence over global affairs have taken a heavy hit. But China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region and the world is growing.

“The more passive the UK’s position in the world and in its relations with China becomes, the more the UK finds it necessary to show its presence, but only by petty means,” Gao Jian, director of the Center for British Studies at Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that the aim of the UK is to seek greater diplomatic leverage, and reach a balance in its China relations.

The UK should be aware of the core interests and the bottom line of China’s diplomacy. Certain British politicians should not indulge in daydreaming and cross the line, simply to satisfy their vanity.

Playing the “Taiwan card” is a dead end for all countries, including the UK.

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