Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has told his officials to work carefully to manage relations with the U.S. and China — and avoid the U.K. becoming trapped in a new “Cold War” between the two countries.
The minister held an internal meeting of British diplomats and officials on Sept. 2 during which he set out his vision for “global Britain” and outlined the approach for the newly-formed government department he leads — the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
According to details of the meeting shared with Bloomberg, Raab hardly mentioned the so-called special relationship between the U.K. and the U.S. during his remarks.
Instead, he drew a distinction between British interests and the direction that political debate was taking toward China in the U.S and Britain, saying the U.K. will need to pitch its approach carefully with Washington as well as Beijing. The FCDO declined to comment.
The foreign secretary’s comments emerged as Raab prepared for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington this week.
It shows how the U.K. government is working to avoid outright condemnation of China, despite anticipating pressure from the Trump administration to take a harder approach. Walking that line will be a key challenge for Boris Johnson’s government as it seeks to carve out a new role for the U.K. outside the European Union.
Raab said the U.K. could act to help bring mid-sized countries together as geopolitical alliances shift in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will need to pitch ourselves very carefully, both directly with China, but also with the U.S.,” Raab told the meeting. “That interesting coalition of like minded countries is not really interested in being snared in a new Cold War of some description, and it will require a lot of focus and analysis.”
Raab, who will hold talks with Pompeo on Wednesday, made the remarks during an all staff FCDO meeting on September 2, according to the account. He described the current international landscape as the most challenging in a generation.
He said the UK had a niche as a “great convenor” of like-minded middle-ranking powers that together could “make a difference and shift the dial” – and described just talking about the big players – the US, Europe and China – as “intellectual laziness”.
Tensions arose between British and American policy toward China after the Trump administration launched a crackdown on Huawei Technologies Co. Johnson angered Trump by initially approving Huawei for a role in the U.K.’s next generation wireless networks, before U.S. sanctions on the company forced Britain toreverse its decision.
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