The decision by the UK to break away from the Chinese 5G operator coincides with a strange decision in the Horn of Africa.
It's unclear what the determining factor was that pushed Boris Johnson over a line to effectively ban Huawei from 5G networks in the UK from 2027, but Trump will claim it was down to him. It’s what Trump does. He invariably takes credit for just about anything around the globe no matter how outlandish it may seem.
The reality is that Johnson’s decision was probably not based on any special relationship he may have with The Donald. It’s more down to simple politics as recent polls in the UK showed over 80 percent of Brits didn’t trust the Chinese and given the atmosphere of Covid-19 and demonstrations in Hong Kong, it was hardly surprising that Boris finally flipped the switch.
In one sense you could sympathise with Trump claiming the credit as he is at the vanguard of an anti-China policy which the pandemic created once it became clear in March of this year that his own trade deal with China was in tatters.
The truth is though that pandemic put Boris is a very awkward position and made Huawei an increasingly risky bet, politically. He simply couldn’t afford to be seen to be weak with China and only time will tell whether this decision will pay dividends in America which is a big brother intelligence sharer.
Much is written about a post-pandemic recovery of the West with many great armchair experts telling us that travel and tourism will never quite be the same again.
But geopolitics also has been affected.
We can already see from the movements of the Americans and the EU that China is to pay the price for the pandemic. The bellicose response from Washington and Brussels is there for all to see as both camps fear massive political fallout back home at the ballot boxes if there isn’t a new relationship. And so, the UK government’s decision is neither polemic nor especially novel. London is really slow on the uptake and is following the pack.
But the herd mentality towards reigning in China might well backfire. China has proved itself deft at manipulating currencies, flaunting international laws both at home and abroad and denying market access to US firms in China.
It also has a healthy disregard for intellectual property rights and there’s really no telling what can happen when Beijing decides to act, although it is worth noting that it has already spoke of retaliatory measures. It’s hard to see how the US firms enjoying record sales in China, like Cadillac, will fair once the tiger stirs.
Are we seeing the first signs of a division in the world with China, Iran and Russia on one side and the West on the other? Will countries who would like to be part of that like India, South Korea, Turkey and perhaps Pakistan – but who still enjoy good relations with the US - be asked to choose a side? The China-India border skirmishes set up exactly this dichotomy recently.
Trade blocs seem to have had their day as the only which seems to stand tall with any success at all is BRICS while others like the EU have such little growth it puzzles economists as to how they survive.
The move against China seems to be in line with the end of the EU, which many experts claim is sooner than we think and with perhaps the near-end of NATO.
And we can expect the US and the West to bully small countries in the developing world to play along with the new ruse against China.
Recently, you might have heard news from a country in Africa called Somaliland – a former British colony which is independent of Somalia – which recognised Taiwan.
Clearly Somaliland is anxious to gain recognition around the world for its own independence as, until now, even the UN doesn’t recognise it, but one has to question the wisdom of the Taiwan move which has already angered China.
Does Somaliland benefit from aid, or shipments of gadgets from Taiwan’s tech rich economy? Investment? Aid? Then what?
Other than a couple of diplomats and a flag above a nice building in Hargeisa, not much else at all.
Was the decision taken entirely by themselves, or did the Americans have a mendacious hand in it, as we can assume that Washington is looking around the globe to influence countries into taking a stand against China.
Presently in Somalia, there is a strong push by a US diplomat to earn his stripes by pushing for unification between Somalia and Somaliland. Could having an anti-China Somaliland perched on top of Somalia be an excuse to have a little proxy war in Africa between China and its allies (Somalia) and the West? Far fetched?
Perhaps. Regional experts might point to Syria and Libya to see how regional powers can’t resist the opportunity for what they think will be manageable wars.
But in Somalia, there isn’t the basis for China to push the government to take a position against Somaliland. China is also an enemy by default given the dependency of Mogadishu on US/EU aid.
Yet many in Somalia have little patience for Somaliland and don’t believe in the vision of either unity or of Somaliland’s autonomy. Even fewer in Somaliland believe in unity at all but are playing a game with Washington and humouring its diplomats with the notion.
“China wants Somalia badly, but we are unable to connect due to our dependence to US/EU [financial] support,” one Somali senior figure in Mogadishu told me.
Could that change? Much will depend on November and US presidential elections. If the hold the US has on Somalia is slackened, the Taiwan move by Somaliland might have implications.
It seems the Taiwan move isolates Somaliland even further not only in Africa but across the world as if countries wanted to support it in the future, then retaliation from Bejing would surely put an end to any such plans.
For London it’s different. If Boris Johnson’s decision was made due to lobbying by the US, he probably won’t even be in office to face the music when Huawei equipment is phased out.
Indeed, the financial implications are already known.
By contrast, if Somaliland’s decision was crafted by US meddling, then it may be generations to come who have to pay the price for Washington’s foibles. I bet Boris Johnson can't find Somaliland on a map of Africa.
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