Is The U.S. Losing A Friend As U.K. Falls To China’s Charms?

Is The U.S. Losing A Friend As U.K. Falls To China’s Charms?
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Kowtow is a word of Chinese origin, and according to the Oxford dictionary, it means prostration, in which one kneels “in worship or submission” contemporaneously acting “in [an] excessively subservient manner.”

And Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Britain where he promised large investments really showcased the right way to go about a kowtow regimen. Historically, Chinese emperors received the deepest kowtow as a mark of great respect, which was kneeling three times while touching the head on the ground three times. At the end of the 18th century, the first British ambassadors chose not to do that and were consequently denied a meeting with Emperor Quianlong, who later sent a letter to King George III which explained his point of view about foreign “barbarians” who the emperor thought to be inferior to China.

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Following that event, Britain did not have an embassy in China until, with the help of the French, it beat China into submission during the First (1839-42) and Second (1856-60) Opium Wars. As part of the share of spoils, Hong Kong was ceded to the British. For decades after these two wars, the U.K. was the most powerful empire on earth and like is the case in history, the country made sure that the Chinese people were humiliated at every opportunity.

Tables turn as UK forced to bow down

Today, the tables have turned, and the U.K. might be feeling the same feelings it exacted on China all those decades ago. Now, kowtow is used in its first meaning. As he arrived in the U.K., Xi was given the highest honors a British state can bestow upon foreign emissaries and diplomats. A banquet was thrown for the Chinese premier by Queen Elizabeth II, while Xi was provided a luxury suite in Buckingham Palace. Moreover, the Chinese supremo addressed Parliament, and wherever he went, he was either attended by the queen or by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Such extravagant shows of respect are definitely in order, considering the fact that China is seeking to invest up to $46 billion in various projects, including around $12 billion in a new nuclear power station (with France). In the near future, China will also use the city of London for international banking and currency and other trading in a deal that will help Britain with its importing services.

In what should be called a new-found friendship, Britain has not even spoken a little about the human or civil rights issues China has had to face in several international platforms. There were no lectures on the imprisonment of dissidents, suppression of freedom of press or the well-documented issues of corruption that still plague the country. Indeed, this silence, an uncharacteristic one, for that matter, is Britain’s shame, and one that it has taken on its chin quite well.

Steve Hilton, who at one stage used to be one of Cameron’s closest advisers, has clearly been shaken up by his former boss’ appeasement towards his opposite number and has called it “one of the worst national humiliations we’ve seen since we went cap-in-hand to the IMF in the 1970s” (In 1976, the International Monetary Fund loaned a near-bankrupt U.K. $4 billion).

Ai Weiwei, a dissident artist who is now settled in London, believes that the Chinese people of today, who are becoming more aware of their rights, will be left disappointed after seeing Cameron cast China’s issues aside in such a manner. These polemics will surely fade into the background when the real discussions of the Chinese president’s visit kick off.

U.K. and U.S. fail the biggest test of the century?

For more than a century, Britain has considered itself to be the United States’ best friend and indeed has proven its value to Washington in times of need. In bygone years, tests of time were passed with flying colors by both nations, but it appears that they might not be able to pass this new and unique test as the international system experiences a shift in the overall dynamics.

However, this new shift was going to happen one way or the other. Following some U.S. officials’ deploring of cuts to the U.K.’s defense budget, the U.K. headed the list of Western states to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure bank back in March. The United States did not really like the new partnership, and one senior official blatantly spoke about Britain’s constant accommodation of China.

It appears that the highest levels of the U.K. government have already decided that they are going to give way to Chinese charms and will maintain good relations with Beijing in what is definitely a very un-British thing to do. Another un-British thing that has been done has been to take the U.S. out of the equation and pursue an Asian angle in a way that has indeed offended the White House.

Indeed, London has decided to place its bets on a still-rising power in light of recent economic maneuvers that have seen the United States being surpassed by China. This major rethink was orchestrated by the chancellor, George Osborne, Cameron’s likely successor, and has been driven by shift in U.S. politics.

Britain’s economy is growing at around 2.5 percent but as things stand, latest figures show signs of stagnation which is why the East with its wealth, is a lucrative destination. It might be a huge shift in the U.K.’s international posture and will have consequences not only for London but also for Washington.

The other side of the coin

However, all this might also be something different. This new-found amity between China and the U.K. may also prove to be the latter acting as a bridge, not only between Europe and the United States but also between China and the United States, just like Margaret Thatcher was between the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev and the U.S. under Ronald Reagan.

And although Weiwei is very pessimistic about the chances of anything good coming out of this new partnership, it is safe to say that eventually, the U.K. will be forced to face aggressive questions from its own journalists–something that Xi Jinping doesn’t in his own backyard.

Moreover, despite the fact that it appears obviously easy to conclude the new tidings as an end to the long and historic relationship between London and Washington, there definitely is another meaning behind it, and it will be indeed shocking to see if Britain has really sold out its values and beliefs, which Obama lauded a few years back for the sake of a lot of money.

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  1. the one really lose its value is the US right now, which is why britian is trying to balance that relationship before the US creates another war out of their hegemony ego. business is business, US just got to bring in politics into it; propaganda and weaponized anything against another nation like russia. who the hell would trust and do business with someone who would abuse their power in the financial system – weaponizing it against a nation at will. risky business and most importantly threatening national security. the actions clearly shows the US is heading towards a world domination idea: military bases around the world, interfering other nations government affairs, installing nuclear bases and missile defense within allies bases surrounding illusional enemy, weaponizing financial system against other nations, bombing the hell out of other countries and creating more terrorist than ever.

  2. The Brits is well know they do anything for money, they kiss the foot of the rulers of Arabian and any other state that has money…so they will kiss China to save their economy….Its well know that the Brit Royals are in the payroll of the rulers of Arabia….

  3. Why would anyone trust the US when the US is all about itself and nothing about others. The financial down turn has proven that the US never cares about others in need during crisis. All the US does is create fake threat from others to justify itself for its own aggression to other countries. The US dose everything to keep its world domination position and that all it cares. These is no friend but only national interests and this is the sole US foreign policy.

  4. You must know something I don’t, as I’ve never heard our government indicate that. If you mean the EU referendum, the American people have, still do and always will back Britain. It’s your choice and this “brotherhood”, as we call it, is not contingent upon whether you leave or stay in the EU. As for the abused girlfriend/wife analogy, world leaders can be creepy, just in what they have watch over and what they must hold, sustain, improve and defend. This has it’s highs and lows and it can make them “creepy.” Yours, and ours. Fear, power and control is the issue. It’s why George Washington forbade that anyone be President for more than 8 years. The office will “suck your soul out”, as he put it. But if you believe you are better with China, than God be with you.

  5. This muslim author should be kicked back to where he came from! What utter bias opinion as if the British Monarchy & government do not have their own mind & had to tip toe to whatever the US do, mind you Obama himself gave President Li a similar banquet so where’s the beef? More like sour grapes!

  6. It is such a foolish question from you know whom Khan. The British are much much more clever than the Japanese, they will never become a BLIND ally of a corrupted hegemony, unlike the scheming but lesser clever little Japanese, for sure.

  7. Then why is the US doing business with China and Saudi Arabia? Why is Taiwan doing business with China? Why does Obama whine about China blocking US hi-tech sales when China is helping the US with that policy that the US shouldn’t do business with such countries. Pretty hypocritical.

  8. What a shameful attitude of Great Britain! Did Great Britain become Great “Beggar” for a couple of hundred billions of yuan? History repeats itself again. Just before World War II broke out, GB premier Neville Chamberlain had kowtowed to Hitler’s requests in hope that the latter would keep GB alone. Well, we all know what happened next. GB got both the shame and the V2 bombs. This time GB may get both the shame and the loss of some islands somewhere around the world when China decides to mark its maritime territory over or even worse a “Chernobyl” nuclear nightmare sometime down the road since GB just imported a “Made in China” nuclear plant.

  9. It is NOT about that!!! IT’s about how pathetic the British would pander and kow tow to China.. knowing CHina is not about rule of law, democracy.,etc.

  10. I was appalled when I saw the Queen of England bow to China, England should have left the royal family out of this humiliation but at least Prince Charles next in line for the crown didn’t kiss any ass. I couldn’t believe they refrained from talking about human rights issues because Xi said so.

  11. That’s an extremely idiotic comment that you made. When did the US ever make or demand any nation to befriend only with the US? Never. It has never happened in history. The US may prefer it to happen, but they will never do anything to force it. All allies of the US, including Britain, have tons of allies besides the US.

  12. That’s not love when you demand the only friend they can have is you. Do you see China giving that ultimatum to the British? That’s control not love. Much like how an abuser treats his wife or girlfriend. Given British history in China it’s not up to China to show good faith.

  13. Hope they know what they are doing. China will partner with them, but does not love them. Americans do. We are often questioned, accused, insulted and rejected for it, but we still do. No, the British are not perfect, but we will always be there for them. With no disrespect to China, hope Britain knows what they are doing. God be with them both.

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