by Wang Shuo
The British government on Monday released its Integrated Review Refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world. Branding China as "an epoch-defining challenge" to international order, the report again peddled the "China threat" narrative, meddling in China's internal affairs, and smearing China on issues related to the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
The reasons for Britain's continued rise in hostility toward China are manifold, most notably its attempt to divert public attention from its inability to solve its own internal problems.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has hit Europe hard and Britain has borne the brunt of it, facing a harsher situation than other European countries.
As one of the worst-performing economies among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries last year and the only country in the Group of Seven to fail to return to pre-epidemic levels, Britain is at high risk of falling into another round of economic recession this year, with an eye-catching double-digit inflation so far.
The stalled economy has exacerbated social problems. Protests and strikes have become commonplace in Britain today. The already fragmented society was torn apart. Suffering from constant political strife and the disconnect between the elite circle and ordinary Britons, Britain is swallowing the bitter fruit of Brexit.
The Conservative government's fast turnover of new prime ministers has shattered its credibility and reduced its support rate to less than 30 percent.
Under such circumstances, it is very difficult for the Conservative government to admit the political system has gone wrong, nor can it profess that Brexit has been a mistake, let alone publicly acknowledge its own incompetence.
Therefore, Britain finds it much easier to attribute its failure to external factors, following its ally, the United States by ascribing everything to the so-called "China threat."
The second reason is that the British government's commitment to achieve a "Global Britain" has gradually proved to be an illusion.
After exiting the European Union, the largest single market, and screwing up relations with both Russia and China, Britain, which has little credibility in developing countries, seems to have no other option rather than to ride on U.S. coattails.
In Washington's eyes, however, the value of Britain has dramatically declined in the wake of Brexit. The United States has so far paid little attention to the bilateral free trade agreement highly anticipated by Britain.
To curry favor with Washington, Britain has even had to do some "dirty work" for the United States. That's the reason why Britain jumps higher than others on China-related issues.
The good old days of the British Empire has gone. A senior U.S. general has claimed that the British Army is no longer regarded as a top-level fighting force, while British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace admitted that the British Army is "hollowed out and underfunded."
Noting that "Britain's armed forces are crippled by deficiencies and shrinkages," Max Hastings, a British journalist and military historian, said that unless a British government makes service seem more attractive and valued, the army's combat units will remain "hollowed out."
All these suggest that Britain's hard power is far less than it self-proclaimed.
Moreover, quite a number of Britain's behaviors are by no means in the moral high ground as it positioned itself to be. Just remember how many geopolitical conflicts whose seeds the British once sowed across the world. And that led us to ask the question: does Britain truly care about Ukraine or its people when it follows Washington's footstep to prompt the world to act tough on Russia.
Likewise, Britain's meddling in the Taiwan question is in no way its genuine concern for regional peace and stability.
These are, after all, stories of self-hypnosis. The more Britain indulges in taking the low road, the further it could deviate.
Editor's note: Wang Shuo is a professor at the School of International Relations of Beijing Foreign Studies University.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Xinhua News Agency.