"This is important to ward off China's growing market share."
It seems Canada is not the only one out to please Washington. Yesterday, the South China Morning Post published an article about Britain’s plan to build a new military base in East Asia, possibly near the vicinity of Singapore and Brunei. Some analysts warn that it could further complicate the strategic landscape in a region already fraught with maritime disputes and geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States.
The plan, which was bared by no less than British defense secretary Gavin Williamson, is seen to possibly “cast a shadow over China’s relations with its Asian neighbors” aside from probably further inflaming tensions between Beijing and London, which started when after a British warship sailed close to the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
Early in December, Canada arrested Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, a top executive with the Chinese tech company Huawei, in response to an extradition request from the United States.
While the US insists that the request for Meng’s extradition is due to the fact she is wanted on charges of fraud, including the use of a Huawei subsidiary to conduct business with Iran (in violation of the sanctions the U.S. had imposed on that country, aside from fears that Huawei would use advanced capabilities to provide intelligence to the Chinese government, making it a threat to national security), sources claim that the real reason behind the arrest and detention of Meng is mainly due to the US losing out in 5G technology, thus the need to resort to foul tactics, but which has failed to stop Huawei from shipping 200 million units catapulting it to number two behind Samsung, and relegating US brand Apple to number three in the world market.
Now, with Britain’s admission of its plan to build a military base in the contested areas in South China Sea, Xu Liping, a professor at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, views this move as a clear muscle-flexing gesture targeting China that further shows closer engagement of external powers in the South China Sea disputes.
The article quotes another analyst, Ni Lexiong, a naval expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, who says “the plan was more evidence of Britain and other key American allies increasingly aligning themselves with US President Donald Trump’s hardline approach on China.”
“It is a complementary step to Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy and Washington will be pleased,” Ni was quoted as saying, in reference to Trump’s plan to bolster its security and economic engagement with the region at a time when bilateral ties are at a historical low.
Beijing has long viewed Washington’s heightened military activity in the disputed South China Sea as a threat to regional stability. And although Xu says Washington was less interested in playing a global leadership role under Trump’s “America first” policy, it was actually behind London’s plan for a military base in the region.
The relationship between China and Britain has been strained after Beijing accused Britain of engaging in “provocation” after a British warship passed near the Paracel Islands claimed by China in a “freedom of navigation” operation in late August.
And while the bases are still on the planning stage, the news nonethless could still be good for American allies and partners in the region that have been concerned about Washington’s reluctance to take a leadership role to challenge Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea disputes. Such allies are Japan, Australia and Vietnam.
For China, however, it could signal severe challenges ahead in dealing with a delicate regional security balance in the region, with the risk of growing tensions and even partial confrontation, an analyst warned.
But Britain and its other allies could care no less. What is important at this point is to please Washington, just as what Canada did, in order to ward off China’s growing market share.
They could not afford to just sit and watch as their share of the market dwindles and evaporates into thin air.