Boris sends naval fleet to revive British colonialism on the Chinese coast

Jul 16, 2021

Double standards: In the shipping war games it’s Freedom of Navigation for one side and an unwelcome intrusion into our waters for the other.

I can’t wait to see what Australian Strategic Policy Institute Executive Director Peter Jennings says when the British Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its escorts HMS Richmond, HMS Kent, HMS Defender, HMS Diamond, Royal Fleet Auxiliaries Fort Victoria and Tidespring, U.S. destroyer The Sullivans, Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen and the nuclear attack boat HMS Artful sail off the coast of China in coming weeks.

Mr Jennings told News Lt outlets this week that the presence of a single high tech Chinese surveillance ship monitoring war games exercises off the coast of Australia was not the sort of thing that friendly military forces did.

“It is worth remembering that friendly military forces don’t really do this to each other,” he is quoted as saying. “We can use the rhetoric of shared values and interests with China, but their actions show a very different kind of relationship.”

Consistent with his critique of the Chinese ship, Mr Jennings will surely condemn the British fleet’s intrusion into waters within 200 nautical miles of the Chinese coast as a provocative act of war.

But sadly no. The double standard will be in full view.

It’s amazing what these “strategic” analysts can get away with.

And it’s stunning how readily today’s Australian journalists are willing to promote the lies and half-truths they tell.

Since he was British Foreign Minister way back in 2017 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised that the UK would send warships to the South China Sea even though the region is about as far away from the British West European islands as one could get.

The vast majority of British trade is with the countries around it. The European Union is still the UK’s largest trading partner with North America the next biggest trading region. These regions account for over 70 per cent of UK trade.

So why send a British naval fleet to the coast of China?

And do those who deploy the ships ever think about how this might be viewed in China?

Few there will have forgotten the Opium Wars where British warships were employed to force the Chinese to accept opium imports.  British warships, including the first steam and sail-powered warship, the Nemesis, attacked and destroyed Chinese cities. The gunship diplomacy won the British the right to run the Chinese island territory of Hong Kong which they administered until 1997.

Probably less well known is the British naval intervention in the Chinese civil war in 1949 when British warships the Amethyst, a 1,350 ton frigate and the HMS Consort ventured 170 miles up the Yangtze, and clashed with communist Chinese forces.  The cruiser London and the frigate Black Swan then sailed inland from Shanghai to try to rescue the Amethyst.  The communists said 252 Chinese lost their lives during the naval bombardment.  Forty-five British naval crew and at least three Chinese serving with them lost their lives in the Amethyst incident.

The Queen Elizabeth fleet’s entrance into the South China Sea will of course be presented as a Freedom of Navigation operation.   But it is anything but. Commercial shipping freely transits the region and China has no reason to hinder it in any way. After all, most of the trade is with China.

A fleet of foreign warships coming from the other side of the world to sail through the South China Sea is another matter altogether.

The operation is clearly designed to provoke and could create an incident.

Collisions between US warships and other shipping have occurred in the past. In 2017 the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, the ACX Crystal, collided south of Tokyo Bay in the East China Sea, costing the lives of seven US sailors.  Australians will also well remember the June 1969 tragedy when the USS Frank E Evans crossed the bow of the aircraft carrier Melbourne during a training exercise in the South China Sea. Seventy four US sailors lost their lives.

A collision or a challenge from a Chinese warship could cause conflict.

Old colonialist Boris Johnson has enough problems at home and shouldn’t need to create more abroad.  But then again, maybe that’s what he wants – a distraction from his mis-handling of Covid and the Brexit debacle.

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