The Worrying Fatalism of Jo Johnson | Angus Gillan

Articulating how Britain can support an international rules-based order when approaching a future relationship with China, considering vast human rights violations, for this Lord, it comes down to nothing more than economics, and detractors are worthy of ridicule. Speaking at The Strand Group’s “Finding ‘Global Britain’: From political slogan to hard economic policy choices”, Johnson replied to a question that asked how Britain could develop an Asia-Pacific economic strategy in light of China’s destruction of the Uighurs, among other barbaric acts.

Johnson defended a close economic relationship with China, to secure ‘Global Britain’, “it would be economic madness to decouple from China and it would be incredibly destructive of this idea of ‘Global Britain’”. Far from a pragmatic position to take, Johnson’s faux-realpolitik reveals the dismissive nature of China doves, who, while mocking hawks as obtuse and reactionary, are surrendering our values for fear of the tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party lashing out and sinking the great ship Britannia. 

Johnson’s (possibly unwitting) display of great fatalism suggests liberal governments and nations are unable to prevent atrocity. Far from being interdependent sovereign nations, China is the central player in the new game of great power struggles, “there are many countries around the world, not just the belt and road countries, many countries across the global south, who are increasingly interdependent with China.” 

Yet the very purpose of promoting an interconnected world, which many prophesied would be forthcoming following China’s admittance to the WTO, was that it would allow liberal nations to influence international development through the opening of markets. Yet, we are now led to believe that such integration of China into the economy leaves us at checkmate, for the CCP’s reach is so vast. As Johnson spoke, there was not even an attempt to address how we are to response to a regional hegemon committing genocide, “the reality is, if we follow a hard Brexit with Chexit then global Britain is going to be aeroplane that’s dropped both engines.” There we have it, “reality”, accept it. 

Our need for GDP growth and 4% cheaper aluminium imports trumps the moral obligation to lead the free world in standing firm to the never-ending reported horrors, such as the allegations of women dying from gang rape while being held in re-education camps. The battle cry of “we have to find a modest vivendi that is consistent with our values and interests”, suggests unfortunate but necessary compromise, despite how sick we feel. It is not quite as sterling stuff to place Johnson on par with Shakespeare and ‘Once more unto the breach’. It brings to mind Jonathan Swifts ‘modest proposal’ from 1729. Adapted for Johnson it could read: ‘let us not eat all the babies, but maybe just a few if it helps GDP’.

More curiously however was Johnson’s desire to mock his former Commons colleagues. While omitting any reference to the millions of victims of the CCP’s acts of tyranny, Johnson himself became a victim of the indolent strategy of painting those he disagrees with as bigots, who are simply expressing “the best of political machismo”. Eager to warp the premise of the question, it was pretended that those who raise concerns and promote more limited engagement with China, are advocating full, total, complete, absolute, decoupling. 

We were then told those who advocated such a break with China did so to pass the “virility test”. (David Attenborough voice) Conservatives who take a tough stance on China can be seen here, posturing like colourful birds from the jungle in search of a mate and some votes. To dilute the act of being hawkish on China to looking virile is an obtuse statement considering that virility is what the CCP are themselves destroying, by cutting the birth-rates of ethnic minorities through IUDs, forced abortions, and sterilization projects. All while promoting the ethnic replacement of these minorities with Han Chinese. 

Going further, it was explained to the we have, “a Conservative party for which Sinophobia is the new Euroscepticism.” A mischaracterisation that is akin to traveling to 1936 and lambasting Churchill for Naziphobia, when he led a delegation to Stanley Baldwin to voice fears that German rearmament would leave Britain behind a political entity who turned out to rightly be a threat to liberty. Critics at the time saw Churchill as a hubristic warmonger, unable to accept reality and tranquility. I refuse to believe that such a well-educated individual, a holder of prominent policy advisory posts, truly believes that calling out acts of genocide by a tyrannical regime equates to anti-Chinese sentiment. In light of our allies, notably the Dutch, being brave enough to accuse China of genocide, we should not so eagerly condemn those among us voicing concern about the CCP to being intolerant of Chinese people.

While a complex topic, at least the appeasers of 1930s Britain, such as the statesman Lord Halifax, had at least served on the front lines in a hideous war, seeing a generation perish on the shores of Europe. Churchill warned ‘The partition of Czechoslovakia under pressure from England and France amounts to the complete surrender of the Western Democracies to the Nazi threat of force. Such a collapse will bring peace or security neither to England nor to France.’ The fear of economic failure from refusing to stand up to the CCPs force will similarly bring us no peace or security. While no one is calling for conflict, we must act in such a manner to safeguard ourselves and others and accept the CCP as a political reality that can practice genocide with impunity.

It is far too easy for those living as Lords in Marylebone to close their eyes and hope that Chinese fascism will dissipate and not touch them. The “reality” is, the closer we stand to humanity, the further we stand from the CCP. 

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