China and UK at risk of ‘instant’ conflict unless Boris shows ‘credible threat of force’

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The warning comes from former UK Ambassador to the US Christopher Meyer who told Times Radio China will sooner or later have to realise all its efforts to antagonise western countries will backfire. Mr Meyer claimed that the only thing that will make the penny drop in Beijing will be a strong diplomatic approach from the UK that shows Boris Johnson’s Government is a “credible threat” to China. He said: “I think the big deterrent to China in all of this, whether we talk about Hong Kong or the frontier with India or the South China Sea or cyber warfare and all the other stuff that the Chinese have been up to under President Xi, is the notion of self-harm.

“What they are now doing on such a broad canvas to antagonise other states and makes them feel fearful is actually going to damage their own national interest.

“That penny has to drop in Beijing to deter them from further such activity.”

He added: “The Chinese talk frequently about do we want a new Cold War?

“The good thing, if I can say that and it sounds strange, about the Cold War is that it had its own rules and regulations, which made the danger of a hot war far less likely.

“The problem I see with China is that we could go straight from a situation now into a hot war, into a hot instant without ever passing through the phase of a cold war.

“So we want to try and mitigate all that by diplomacy backed by the credible threat of force.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to ban Huawei from Britain’s 5G network on Tuesday, angering China but delighting US President Donald Trump by signalling that the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker is no longer welcome in the West.

The United States has pushed Johnson to reverse his January decision to grant Huawei a limited role in 5G, while London has been dismayed by a crackdown in Hong Kong and the perception China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus.

Now, as Britain prepares to cast off from the European Union, Johnson will risk the ire of the world’s second-largest economy by ordering a purge of Huawei equipment which the United States says could be used to spy on the West.

Britain’s National Security Council (NSC), chaired by Johnson, will meet on Tuesday morning to discuss Huawei. Media Secretary Oliver Dowden will then announce a decision to the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The immediate excuse for the about-turn in policy is the impact of new US sanctions on chip technology, which London says affects Huawei’s ability to remain a reliable supplier.

“Obviously the context has changed slightly with some of the sanctions that the US has brought in,” Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News when asked about Huawei.

In what some have compared to the Cold War antagonism with the Soviet Union, the United States is worried that 5G dominance is a milestone towards Chinese technological supremacy that could define the geopolitics of the 21st century.

5G’s faster data and increased capacity will make it a foundation of industries and driver of economic growth. As the West’s most powerful intelligence power after the United States, Britain is being watched over the Huawei issue by allies.

Hanging up on Huawei, founded by a former People’s Liberation Army engineer in 1987, marks the end of what former Prime Minister David Cameron cast as a “golden era” in ties, with Britain as Europe’s top destination for Chinese capital.

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Cameron toasted the relationship over a beer with President Xi Jinping in an English pub, which was later bought by a Chinese firm.

Trump, though, has repeatedly asked London to ban Huawei which Washington calls an agent of the Chinese Communist state – an argument that has support in Johnson’s Conservative Party.

Huawei denies it spies for China and has said the United States wants to frustrate its growth because no U.S. company could offer the same range of technology at a competitive price.

China says banning one of its flagship global technology companies would have far-reaching ramifications. Its ambassador has said a U-turn on Huawei would damage Britain’s image and it would have to bear consequences if it treated China as hostile.

In January, Johnson defied Trump by allowing so-called high-risk companies’ involvement in 5G, capped at 35 percent. He excluded them from the sensitive 5G “core” where data is processed, as well as critical networks and locations such as nuclear and military sites.

Huawei and customers including BT, Vodafone and Three are waiting to see how extensive the new ban will be and how quickly it will be implemented, with hundreds of millions of pounds riding on the outcome.

The other large-scale telecoms equipment suppliers are Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia.

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