A British naval presence in the South China Sea strengthens global security and Britain’s global role. But it must be matched with a more systematic approach to the region, and to China’s defiance of legal norms.
The United States and Chinese navies have just narrowly avoided a dangerous collision. This was not an accident but an escalation, a show of force on the part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to drive out the US Navy from what China considers its territorial waters in the South China Sea.
The US administration pretends that its decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran is a radically new approach which may change the entire regional strategic equation, similar to the huge policy reversal towards China executed by President Nixon in the early 1970s. But the Trump White House will be disappointed; the comparisons with Nixon are misconceived.
Britain and Australia face an uncertain strategic landscape. But there is much they can do together, as they deal with the two big powers which appear determined to change the current status quo: China and Russia.
The potential political acceptance of tax rises to fund the NHS is beginning to influence the debate on defence spending. Will this provide the impetus to defeat those political leaders who want to abet the decline in British military power?