Last Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, Chinese president Xi Jinping arrived in the United Kingdom for a four day tour of the country, which included three days spent in London and a fourth day in Manchester.
Xi and his wife, who accompanied him, were given a lavish red carpet welcome to the country as a sign of deference and respect.
Indeed, very rarely was Xi seen without the company of a member of the royal family.
This greeting was indicative of the purpose of the visit, which had Britain attempting to , and succeeding in courting China as a new major investor in its economy and as a critical partner in several major infrastructure projects.
Among the major talking points were China’s role in a new nuclear power station and a new high-speed rail system for southern England and several major northern cities.
Most importantly, London is eager for China to become a major investor in its economy. China has promised to both invest $46 billion and to favor British trading and financial services when dealing with the West.
What is incredible is the amount of kowtowing that Britain and her leaders have been doing in recent days in order to entice such cooperation.
‘Kowtow’ is an ancient term used to refer to the prostration of foreign dignitaries before the Chinese emperor, a ceremony which involved bending to one’s knees three times, each time bending one’s head to the floor three times.
In modern usage, there is no better definition of it than what the British did last week.
The Metropolitan police barricaded every route the Chinese president would take, shut down or obfuscated every human rights protest aimed at the Chinese, and ensured that British royalty were constant companions to the Chinese leader.
In preperation for the visit, Chinese diplomats made it very clear that any mention of human rights could risk offending the Chinese, and British officials tactily acknowledged this when they expressed their desire to prevent such issues from infiltrating economic dialog.
Clearly, London is taking major risks in courting Beijing so heavily, among which is the risk of alienating a long-time ally in the U.S.
Such overtures to the Chinese by the British fly in the face of current American diplomatic attitudes towards China, which see the country as an economic, ideological and possibly military adversary.
In this situation, it might be easy for many to overreact.
Certainly, it seems as though a major shift in international power is approaching, if a formerly staunch U.S. ally is now turning to China.
Whether the immediate feelings of betrayal and worry are warranted has yet to be seen, but Britain and her government has a very delicate balancing act ahead of them.
U.S. concerns over Chinese expansion into the West may well be vindicated by this and future Chinese actions.
What level of response that will entail is still to be seen.