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Politics & Law

China may replace Britain as the 2nd greatest global power soon: UK report


The Telegraph suggests that the landing on the ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ by a Chinese robotic spacecraft “is a sign of China’s growing strength and status as a full-blown super-power (An artist image of the unmanned spacecraft picture from Chinese State Media, captured from The Telegraph)

“China poses the single biggest threat to Britain’s position as one of the great super-powers …” reported by The Telegraph on 4 Jan 2019 which quoted a report published by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS).

Founded by a US Senator who “strongly supported civil rights and protecting the environment — while also maintaining a strong opposition to totalitarianism and Communism …”, HJS, according to its own website, “launched in the Houses of Parliament on 22 November 2005” in the UK.

The HJS ‘Audit of Geopolitical Capability’ 2019 examined nine sub-categories and 33 indicators of national capability, and thereafter listed out a ranking.

The Global Audit’s rankings by nation are:

1. USA
2. UK
3. China
4. France
5. Germany
6. Japan
7. Canada
8. Australia
9. India
10. Russia
11. South Korea
12. Italy
13. Brazil
14. South Africa
15. Argentina
16. Indonesia
17. Turkey
18. Mexico
19. Saudi Arabia
20. Nigeria

This report highlighted two concerns. One is that “… by as soon as next year, China’s economic growth and naval investment could see it overtake the UK as a global power. Just 0.4% separates the two nations after China added approximately 65,000 tonnes of large new warships to its fleet since 2016, comparable to around one fifth of the mass of the Royal Navy combat fleet.

Another one is about technology. “The study identifies a particular weakness in China’s five-point lead over the UK in ‘technological prowess’ warning that — in the absence of ‘urgent remedial action’ to boost Research and Development spending — the UK risks falling dangerous behind …”

The report warned that “China’s rapidly expanding geopolitical capacity poses a serious challenge to the West … If the rules-based order is breaking down, the UK should urgently invest in its armed forces’ projection capacities forward basing — not least in the indo-Pacific region — if it seeks to halt this shift …”

At least two points to note here. Firstly, this report is obviously under the heavy influence of the Offensive Realism thought which is prevailing in Washington . The urge to maintain Britain’s global power serves not just the purpose of retaining the UK’s glory, but also the goal of containing China hand in hand with the US by stressing the “indo-Pacific region”.

Secondly, the worry about ‘what if’ the rules-based global order breaks down is indeed a real concern. From Pax-Britannica (1815-1914) to Pax-Americana (1914-present), these two Western powers dominated the world one after one (overpowering France and Spain by the former, and then Germany and Japan by the latter), and throughout the past 200 years set lots of rules to hammer out an ‘order’ of some sort.

Now, Russia and China are two different civilizations, and they both want to alter some rules. Whether they (and some regional powers such as India, Turkey, Saudi and Iran) are able to change the rules of game, or more fundamentally, transform the status quo into an order which is not “rules-based” is a fantastic challenge to analysts and scholars.

So far, the main anxiety is not about the growing strengths of China and etc as they still lag behind by a large extent. It is about the numerous internal problems in the major Western nations, or the so-called ‘Decline of the West’ as suggested by German theorist Oswald Spengler, British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, Harvard scholar Pitirim Sorokin and many other contemporary intellectuals. Plato foretold that democracy could not last long because it would spoil human greed to an uncontrollable level, and thereafter some sort of non-democratic elitist governance would return. Of course, new tech such as AI, hyper-sonic weapons and bio-cloning were unknown to Plato, therefore we need to shoulder the task to revalue the present situation. Readers are always welcome to join this discussion to have our common mankind duties fulfilled.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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