Reposted from Global Times
It has been an open secret for a long time that British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has had aspirations to become the leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the UK. So, when Boris Johnson announced his pending resignation following a series of surmounting scandals, it was little surprise to the media and public at large that Liz threw her name in the hat. As foreign secretary, Truss has made herself known through an appeal to extreme nationalism, overboard ideological chauvinism and unnecessary hawkishness.
Not only has she nailed her mast to the post of “Putin must lose” in Ukraine, but she has also called for publicly intervening in the Taiwan question, expansion of NATO into Asia, peddled Cold War concepts such as “a network of liberty” and invoked confrontation with China at every opportunity. Commentators have often ridiculed her as being a poorer version of Margaret Thatcher, seeking to invoke the same sentiments but of course less convincingly. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating famously described her as “demented”.
Yet, there is also a glaring element of opportunism evident within her extreme rhetoric, given prior to Brexit she in fact supported the UK remaining in the European Union. Truss has clearly mastered an art of “failing upwards” in advancing her career through an appeal to overboard populist sentiment, and was selected by an equally opportunistic and chaotic Boris Johnson government not of course for her competence and skill-set, but through the sheer fact she said the things people wanted to hear, having made her name as minister for state by grotesquely exaggerating Britain’s post-Brexit trade gains, and successfully glossing over the country’s grim economic outlook.
It goes without saying that a Liz Truss leadership would constitute nothing less than a colossal disaster for the UK, and there is absolutely nothing beyond her unhinged rhetoric which would suggest she is even remotely qualified for the role of Prime Minister. In such a scenario, Truss’ absurd and antique neo-imperialism would leave the UK isolated, ridiculed and widely despised. Her rhetoric constantly drums upon memories of a great power nostalgia, making little secret of her simplistic view of world affairs as a zero-sum ideological confrontation, and a belief the UK and its allies have a right to “dominate” the rest of the world in the name of “democracy”, “liberty” and “free markets”, the very sentiment which the British Empire used to conquer and oppress others.
But what is more disturbing is that none of these chauvinistic and zealous outbursts have any basis in reality whatsoever. Britain is not a reascending power, it is a declining one, and Brexit has only served to sharpen that decline as opposed to reversing it, far from the “Global Britain” Truss professes to promote. As a headline in the Financial Times reads, “The UK economy is stagnant – and the reasons run deep.” The annual rate of inflation in May stood at 9.1 percent, the highest in G7, Gross Domestic Product has been in contraction since March, and the country is being marred by growing industrial unrest as the cost of living outstrips wage growth. All of this has only been exacerbated further by London’s bid to make itself the primary cheerleader of escalating the war in Ukraine against Moscow. But even if one discards the impact of the conflict, the economic picture is still grim given the self-imposed political consequences of Brexit.
Given this, what state is the UK truly in to then confront China? An almost inevitable consequence if Liz Truss should succeed. The only redeeming feature of the Boris Johnson government was that he was personally moderate on Beijing, and before the US twisted his arm, understood the importance of maintaining close trade and investment ties with China. Yet if Truss attains power, one should expect all reason, moderation, pragmatism and common sense will be thrown out of the window by her unrestrained and unfathomable quench for Cold War confrontation. For the British economy and for the British people, such a scenario will have disastrous consequences which will include further economic stagnation, even deeper inflation and even nastier supply chain related shocks.
Liz Truss is a disaster waiting to happen. As Foreign Secretary, her entire policy is premised on the pipe dream of great power nostalgia. She has little conception of what diplomacy and realpolitik really means, but believes that chest thumping rhetoric and ideological soundbites constitutes a strategy, it does not. Britain can only thrive once it discards this silly great power nostalgia and adopts a realistic view of its place and prospects in the world. Liz Truss won’t lead Britain to glory, hegemony and might again, but to global embarrassment and humiliation.
The author is a political and historical relations analyst. firstname.lastname@example.org.