Fears of severe air-motion discomfort keep me from closely following Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK. The two governments vie to be more blatant – and blatantly unconvincing – in parading this contrived and cynical new ‘friendship’. Looking past the headline trade and investment stuff, it seems they each see this exercise as a way of grabbing an advantage at the expense of third parties. And the strange part is that they are the same third parties: the UK’s Western allies.
Beijing is puffed up on its own propaganda about its strategic clout – growing military reach, the One Belt, One Road Eurasian empire dream, etc. Yet at the same time it is paranoid about the US containing it, plotting colour revolutions and enjoying currency and information hegemonies. Since anything that weakens the West by definition strengthens China, how can it resist dividing the Western alliance by luring the UK closer if the opportunity arises?
The Brits, meanwhile, are up to their ears in debt and half-tethered to a dysfunctional European trade zone. Chancellor George Osborne, probable heir to the premiership, needs a Get Out of Jail Free Card. Assuming that he and his advisors are not especially naive, they will have calculated that China’s economic quandaries and its angst as lonely-and-unlovable Number Two world power, make it a bit vulnerable. In theory, that adds up to potential economic opportunities and benefits, and if the Brits don’t grab them, the slime-bag French or someone else definitely will.
It’s sort of an international relations version of a one-night stand, born of late-night desperation and lust, probably to be followed by a hangover and a walk of shame.
A Bloomberg source says that Beijing is to scrap capital controls by 2020. The source is probably duff; otherwise, this is delusion or bare-faced lies. The Communist Party can’t let Hong Kong University pick its own pro-vice-chancellor. It wets itself at the thought of Mainland students seeing a copy of the Magna Carta. It fears lawyers so much it kidnaps their kids overseas. And it’s going to allow international markets to decide its currency’s value and let its people move their savings offshore? Nope.
However, I declare the weekend open by giving the CCP a pat on the head for showing great wisdom and taste – in banning golf.