Undercutting a U.S.-led international order built on fair commercial law former British Prime Minister David Cameron will head up a $1 billion investment fund for China's commercial trading infrastructure.
Part of China's "belt and road" agenda of establishing vast trade routes to Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, Cameron's fund could help China dominate the global economic landscape.
That's bad news.
From stealing U.S. intellectual property to challenging India's borders to threatening Vietnam's export market, Chinese economic imperialism is defined by the precedence of one interest: Beijing's predilection for asserting its interests to the exclusion of all others. Where China plays fair or somewhat fair, it does so only because it must in order to interact at all.
Yet it is particularly concerning that Britain is an increasingly supplicant partner to China's agenda. As America's closest ally, one might expect senior British officials to join us in pushing back against Chinese imperialism. That the opposite is occurring illustrates how British officials believe the balance of global power is shifting from the United States to China. And as Britain becomes more deferential to Chinese interests, it will grow more reluctant to support the U.S. on positions that countermand Chinese interests. On issues such as North Korea's nuclear program, for example, it is Australia, not Britain, who is more likely to support the U.S. over China in the years ahead.
Of course, the British perspective is somewhat different.
After all, British officials aren't concerned with retaining China's favor as an end in and of itself, they want to attract Chinese wealth. In the post-Brexit era, Britain knows that it must maximize its trading opportunities and China, obviously, represents a very lucrative opportunity.
At the same time, British officials have more individual interests in play here. Over the past few years, China has been throwing significant compensation packages at former U.K. officials who are willing to act as its surrogates. While David Cameron is the most famous name here, other former British government officials have also been wooed to salute the yellow stars.
Take Danny Alexander.
While serving in the House of Commons, Alexander was a top economics official (the chief secretary to the Treasury under the 2010-2015 Conservative-Lib-Dem coalition government). But on leaving Parliament, Alexander took a job with China's Asia Investment and Infrastructure Bank in Beijing. Lending such high-level credibility to China's economic agenda, I would assume Alexander's salary is not insignificant.
Still, it's not all doom and gloom here. As evidenced by his recent speech at the APEC summit in November, President Trump seems to recognize that preserving the U.S. led international order will require both strength and increasing economic cooperation with other nations. Put simply, that it will require the opposite of isolationism.