Extradition treaty: UK's new tool to show loyalty to U.S.
CGTN Insight
Dominic Raab addressed British lawmakers over the decision. /AFP/PRU

Dominic Raab addressed British lawmakers over the decision. /AFP/PRU

The UK on Monday announced it was suspending extradition arrangements with Hong Kong "immediately and indefinitely." The move, according to British officials, is a response to China’s new national security law for the city. But in essence, it is London’s latest attempt to show loyalty to Washington.

China has reiterated that the national security law is designed to punish crimes of secession, sedition, and collusion with foreign forces. Law-abiding residents, regardless of their nationalities, have nothing to fear from it. Macao’s experience is informative: No one has been charged under the territory’s national security law since it was passed in 2009.

The UK is fully aware of this. Its decision on the extradition treaty is largely a result of mounting pressure from the United States. The UK itself has no desire to provoke China. Since the very start of its Brexit drama, the country has attached great importance to its ties with the world’s second largest economy and has been striving to strike a balance between Beijing and Washington.

Facts tell. The UK was the first major Western country to join the China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Despite Washington’s Huawei ban, the government in London also insisted in 2019 that the Chinese tech giant was not a national security threat. Even in suspending the extradition treaty with Hong Kong, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has also been under pressure from anti-China elements in his own party, tried to signal a pragmatic approach. "I’m not going to be pushed into a position of becoming a knee-jerk Sinophobe on every issue, somebody who is automatically anti-China," he said.

But Washington’s escalating hostilities against Beijing is forcing London to pick sides. Britain has to choose whether to maintain "golden era" ties with China or to succumb to the pressure of its traditional ally. Sadly, Downing Street has picked the latter.

A staff member tests the speed with a Huawei 5G mobile phone at Huawei 5G Innovation and Experience Center in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. /Xinhua

A staff member tests the speed with a Huawei 5G mobile phone at Huawei 5G Innovation and Experience Center in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. /Xinhua

The potential for a UK-U.S. trade deal is believed to be behind the choice. The UK’s painful divorce from the EU means the country has to make accords that could bring it more benefits than those negotiated with Brussels and a trade deal with the United States is what pro-Brexit figures promised during the 2016 referendum campaign as a major prize of the separation. To vindicate the Brexit ordeal, Downing Street has been straining every nerve to push for a transatlantic deal.

In this context, the UK’s eagerness to show its loyalty to Washington is not difficult to understand. By banning Huawei, making waves on the Xinjiang issue, and cutting extradition arrangements with Hong Kong, Britain is ramping up efforts to court Washington at the sacrifice of its ties with Beijing. With U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting London this week, the Conservative government will not miss the chance to flatter a traditional ally. This may explain Britain’s intensive provocations against China in recent weeks.

But will the UK get what it wants in this way? Donald Trump’s “America First” doctrine suggests no. The U.S. has been perplexed by a slew of domestic headaches – soaring COVID-19 confirmed cases, nationwide protests against racism and a widening wealth gap, to name but a few. With the clock ticking down toward November’s elections, American politicians are unlikely to divert their attention from internal affairs to a trade deal with the UK.

In addition, Britain’s anti-China provocations will for sure invite countermeasures from Beijing. As the third largest export destination for British goods, China has been playing a never-to-underestimate role in the UK economy. Brexit has further underlined the significance of maintaining sound ties with the world’s second largest economy. As Boris Johnson said earlier, "China is a giant factor of geopolitics. It’s going to be a giant factor in our lives and in the lives of our children and grandchildren." The UK should be prepared for the consequences of challenging China’s core interests.

Moreover, in the era of globalization, there will be no winners in a confrontation. Under its zero-sum mentality, the U.S. is launching a new Cold War against China. It is uniting the Five Eyes alliance to this end and Britain is turning out to be a pioneer of Washington’s anti-Beijing campaign. But no one player wins in globalization as all countries’ interests are intertwined.

As a sovereign state, the UK is supposed to make policies based on its own calculations. But it chose to dance to the U.S. tune at the cost of its diplomatic independence. This is unwise, to say the least. Britain has gone through a messy ordeal to gain independence from the EU. Downing Street should bear this in mind before becoming a puppet of the United States.

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