London hopes to distinguish itself from Brussels, whose new investment deal with Beijing has gone down badly with the Biden team.
LONDON — In the race to be Joe Biden’s best friend in Europe, the U.K. has a plan — to be different on China.
While Wednesday’s inauguration of the 46th president of the United States will spell the end of Donald Trump’s blame-China-for-everything approach, early signals from Joe Biden’s transition team are that Washington will not be going soft on Beijing — and doesn’t want allies to either.
Officials in Boris Johnson’s government hope their mixture of toughness and foreign policy pragmatism will rhyme with Biden’s — and set them apart from Brussels, Berlin and Paris. On the one hand, London insists that on issues of common interest like climate change they have been prepared to engage. But elsewhere the U.K. has faced up to significant confrontations with Beijing in recent months: on Hong Kong, Huawei and the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
On the latter, Johnson is under intense pressure from his MPs to go further still — coming close to losing a key vote in the House of Commons Tuesday night over a mechanism that would have allowed U.K. courts to strike down trade deals with countries judged to be committing genocide.
Even so, U.K. officials say their approach stands in contrast to the EU, which, as the U.K.’s former national security adviser Mark Sedwill noted in an article in the Daily Mail on the eve of Biden’s inauguration, “rushed through” a new investment deal with China days before the new president takes office.