The past decades have witnessed positive and stable development in comprehensive China-UK relations despite some twists and turns. The UK is now at the crossroads of Brexit. What will be London's vision for Beijing? Are China-UK relations still in a golden era? How will Brexit affect UK's policy toward China? Former British MP George Galloway (Galloway) shared his viewpoints in an exclusive interview with Global Times (GT) reporters Sun Wei and Xu Hailin in London.
GT: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The UK was among the first major Western countries to recognize the PRC in 1950. Ever since, the China-UK relationship has grown stronger. So, in terms of policies toward China, will the current British government have a similar vision to the one decades ago?
Galloway: I don't think so. The UK government is, frankly, an auxiliary of the US. And so, the vicissitudes of China's relationship to the US will guide the British opposition, but there is resistance among the British ruling elite to burning bridges with China. We saw that over the Huawei affair, and the comparative resistance to the trade war mentality prevalent in Washington. But when push comes to shove, the British will follow the policy in Washington.
There is the additional problem of Britain's colonial past with Hong Kong. And as Hong Kong has ever greater salience in public relations terms, at least in terms of China's relations with the West, the British can be counted on to behave like a colonial power. The colonial power acts as it does, because it was and has never really accepted that it no longer is a colonial power. That's why Britain is at the forefront of causing problems for China over Hong Kong.
GT: Do you still believe that China-UK relations are in a golden era?
Galloway: I think the British government in 1950 was rather wiser than the British government in 2019. The early recognition of the PRC was a demonstration of statecraft and institutional wisdom, which has been largely lost over the intervening 70 years. The reality is that British foreign policy and all kinds of things are more and more made in Washington. So if Washington has a government that wants to turn up the aggravation of China, turn up the attempts to divide China, weaken and slow China's progress, the British government will echo that to some degree.
But as I say, there are elements within the British ruling elite that would prefer not to burn all their bridges with China. This was shown in the Huawei affair where one part of the British government wanted to be conciliatory toward China, toward Huawei, and another part was determined to wreck it.
GT: What do you think is Prime Minister Boris Johnson's attitude toward Huawei? We know that in April Huawei was given limited access to help the UK build a 5G network, but obviously it was under Theresa May's leadership. Will this change under the current government?
Galloway: Well, it's too early to say, I'm afraid, because Johnson has his cup runneth over with other matters. I doubt if he has had one moment to think about other foreign policy issues, because the one foreign affair with which he is completely preoccupied now is the question of Brexit.
But I believe that Johnson will be on the side of the Theresa May approach to China - not wishing to burn Britain's bridges with China. Because after all, if Britain is leaving 27 EU countries behind and sailing off into the world, it doesn't make any sense to have bad relations with China, the second-biggest, or the biggest, economy in the world.
GT: Could you elaborate on the China-UK relationship in the context of Brexit?
Galloway: It seems obvious to me that Britain's interests lie in having good relations everywhere in the world where it's possible to do so. And to therefore break with the European Union, Britain must have a common foreign policy toward China.
A policy, moreover, driven by the US, which has its own beef with China, doesn't actually affect us. So, it's foolish of the British government to have bad relations with important countries like China, India, Brazil, South Africa - all the BRICS countries. It's in Britain's interests to have good relations with them, and I hope that will guide the vision of Johnson, if he is still the prime minister.
GT: Some British politicians have interfered in Hong Kong's affairs, which are China's domestic affairs. How does mainstream UK society evaluate the current situation in Hong Kong?
Galloway: Well, of course, the Hong Kong story is being treated to the full panoply of wartime propaganda. The BBC recently did a documentary on China and its leadership with the moody music and dark images and the whole nine yards of propaganda film making. And that has its effect of course.
And while the 44 weeks of the yellow vest protests in France have received almost zero coverage in Britain, though France is 29 miles (46.7 kilometers) away from here, Hong Kong, which is 6,639 miles away from here, all the British news media is there. And of course, the British have never really fully accepted that they were now of no more significance in Hong Kong than Slovakia, or Montenegro, or Slovenia. They have never accepted that the colonial era has passed.
So, Britain, in the service largely of the US, will join in these campaigns against China and of course Hong Kong is just the latest one. There have been many others. They come and go, taken off the shelf and put back on the shelf. So, one day it's the Dalai Lama and Tibet, the next day, it's the Falun Gong, the next day, the Muslim question and Xinjiang, the next day it's Hong Kong.
Their primary purpose is in the service of the US to weaken China, to divert China from its progress forward to having to deal with individual local difficulties. And that's why the British media has been among the worst in the whole world regarding the issue of Hong Kong, which they have tried to portray as a question of democracy.
Of course, Britain ruled Hong Kong for 156 years without the slightest semblance of democracy. The rubber bullet was invented by the British to shoot Chinese people in Hong Kong. Nobody had a vote. There was no democracy under British rule in Hong Kong. But now we're asked to believe that the British care about democracy in Hong Kong.
And the same is true of all of these things. They claim to be aghast at the situation of Muslims in Xinjiang, whilst they are killing Muslims in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria, in Yemen, in Palestine. They care nothing about Muslims unless they're in Xinjiang. They care nothing about democracy unless it's in Hong Kong, and that can be used as a stick to beat China.
GT: So, some British media and politicians have double standards on the violence in Hong Kong. Do you think such attitude will affect UK's China policy?
Galloway: Double standards don't do it justice, as I said, for 44 weeks, protesters have been gassed, shot, beaten, arrested, suppressed 29 miles away in France, our closest European neighbor, five people have lost their hands, at least 24 people have lost their eyes as a result of police violence against protesters in France, but not a single frame is ever shown on British television of these events, partly because they're afraid that they will spread to London.
But I know almost everything, except the shoe sizes, about every leader of the protests in Hong Kong. I know their names even though Chinese names are not easy for English people. We know everything about them, they are being built into heroes in the UK. But not one British person knows the name of any of the leaders of the protest movement in France.
So, Britain wants good trade with China, wants Chinese investment; it wants to sell goods and services to China, but it hasn't given up trying to cause problems for China, and Chinese people need to realize that and understand that. I'm sure that the leaders do, everybody wants a piece of the action in China. But if the opportunity arises to cause problems for China, they take it with both hands.
GT: Do you think Johnson, dubbed as Britain's Trump, will go exactly in line with President Trump? Obviously, Trump is not very pro-EU. How will Johnson deal with pressures and lures of the US?
Galloway: It's important to remember that nobody is there forever. There may be a general election literally any day. And President Trump is coming to the end of his first term, and that might be his only term. So, leaders here are here today and gone tomorrow. The next crop of leaders will make their own dispensation, so far as their relations with China are concerned.
Based on what Trump has already done with North Korea, I'm sure, now that he sacked national security advisor John Bolton, what he will do with Iran. He creates a blizzard of propaganda and insults and threats. He introduces economic sanctions all as a prelude to making the deal, the handshake, the love affair with the leadership in North Korea, for example. This may soon be mirrored. Now Bolton is out of the way in relations with Iran. I may be wrong, but hope I'm right.
Then in the run-up to the presidential election, he'll make a proper trade deal with China. And if that happens, all the hostility in London will melt away.
GT: After the G7 summit, the rift between Europe and the US has widened. Will Johnson take sides?
Galloway: If we leave the EU and if Johnson is still the prime minister, then undoubtedly he will make a trade deal as quickly as possible with the US, and he will try to play what is quite a traditional British ambition to play Greece to America's Rome. Rome, the brute power with a huge army and military prowess, but not much in the way of sophistication, not much in the way of collective brain power.
The British will try to be the brain of Trump. This is what Tony Blair did with George W. Bush. It's what Mrs Margaret Thather did with Ronald Reagan, and Boris Johnson, he will try to be President Trump's brain, but at the end of the day, Rome has the power, not Greece. Greece may have the ideas, may have history, but not the power. And at the end of the day, as chairman Mao Zedong said, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
GT: British MPs have backed the bill to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31. What is your viewpoint on the progress of Brexit and how would you define the EU and UK relationship?
Galloway: Well, all of these things in parliament and now in the courts, they are all attempts to block the implementation of the majority decision in 2016 to leave the EU. So, all these things like no deal, prorogation, court action, parliamentary time, these are all red herrings. The majority of the parliament and in the deep state and among the rich and the powerful, they don't want to leave the EU, they never expected to be in this position. If they had, they would never have called the referendum in the first place. They called it thinking this would kill this issue once and for all. I was sure the result of the referendum would be to leave the EU.
And I said so daily on television, radio, parliament, on the streets, because the referendum was not just about the EU, although the case for leaving the EU was strong enough in itself. The referendum was about the status quo. It asked the British people, are you happy with how things are? And of course, the people are not happy with how things are. Even many of those who voted for the EU are not happy with how things are, because we are in the EU. And because we are in the neoliberal straitjacket, the austerity straitjacket that the EU personifies, the EU institutionally is committed to neoliberal finance, capital, globalised economics. And that's what has beggered more than half the country.
If you are wealthy and live in London, you love the EU. But if you are in the rust belt of Britain, the former industrial heartlands of Britain, where the factories have all closed down, the mines have all closed down, the steelworks have all closed down, you gain nothing from the EU. In fact, the only interface between you and the EU is the cheap labor coming from Bulgaria to drive your wages down. It's not rocket science. Obviously, the working class is not happy. And the Brexit decision was a revolt of Britain's working class. The more working class you were, the more likely you were to have voted for Brexit; the more prosperous you are, the more likely you are to have voted to remain in the EU.
So, for me, this is no longer about Brexit. We already made that decision. This is about democracy. Are you seriously saying you're going to cancel the result of a referendum until 17 and a half million people, their votes have been stolen, nullified, null and void? If you do, there will be very serious consequences.
At worst, you will have a disruption to social peace, which will manifest itself in all kinds of ways. At best, it will destroy your political system. There will be no normal politics, and that's already happening. There's no left and right, Labour, Conservative. All that is gone. Now there's only one dichotomy: Remain or leave. And someone like me on the left who supports Brexit, and now divorced from those people who think they are on the left, but who support the EU, that will change British politics for ever. And that will be seen in the general election when it comes.