Speech: Prime Minister Boris Johnson's foreign policy speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet
A Beijing to Britain bonus briefing
Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed a lively crowd at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. This high profile event attracts the good and the great of the political and business scene. Last night’s guests dined on a dinner of blue cheese and basil panna cotta, sea bass, Irish beef and colcannon and chocolate orange torte.
Johnson’s speech was foreign policy themed, and went on for 25 minutes. This short brief pulls out relevant China details.
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The Prime Minister’s entire speech can be read in full here. China was mentioned twice.
Fallout from COP26 and the weakened coal pledges
“We will work from now on with partners across the world, because this is Global Britain in action. And I know how frustrating it was – as we stood on the verge of agreeing to phase out coal - to see that commitment weakened.”
On new strategies to go green, many of which will likely involve collaboration with Chinese firms
“The UK will soon publish ten separate roadmaps showing exactly how we will deliver our green commitments - side-by-side with many of you here tonight - covering electric vehicles, hydrogen and much else.”
Without explicitly mentioning it, a plan on countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative
“Everyone has now seen the vital importance of the market and private finance and innovation and there is now a decent crop of very similar initiatives. We want to repeat this model everywhere, throughout Africa, throughout South East Asia and the Indian subcontinent, throughout Latin America. Using guarantees and all our innovative financial expertise to help create markets and get private capital flowing, and investing more as our economy recovers from Covid and we can afford to get back to 0.7% to help create a global green industrial revolution. The US has Build Back Better World, the UK has the Clean Green Initiative, the French have their One Planet initiative, the EU has its Global Gateway. It strikes me that we need to concert our activities, just as we forged new institutions after the Second World War. And I believe this concept of coalitions coalescing around science, and security, and values, finance and diplomacy and above all people, should be at the heart of what Global Britain is doing.”
On working with countries that hold different values systems
“Because it is clear that some countries are simply not going to evolve towards free market democracies and we should be clear eyed about that. We have to deal with it, we have to manage it, we must have relations that are as friendly and pragmatic as possible.”
On China and the Indo-Pacific tilt
“…we do not send our Carrier Strike Group 8,000 miles to the South China seas because we are in any way hostile or adversarial to China, not at all, but because we want to show our commitment to the peace and stability of the whole Indo-Pacific region, and that’s why we exercised and operated with 36 of our friends, because freedom of the seas and open supply chains, are the lifeblood of the world economy. And that is the logic of the Indo-Pacific tilt that you will have read in the Integrated Review published earlier this year, and the Aukus arrangement. And this is not just a deal between friends: it is the beginning of cooperation on the defence and security aspects of technology of many kinds – from AI to Quantum to cyber.”
On setting out Global Britain’s stall for countries looking to move away from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (again, not explicitly mentioned)
“And that [collaborations like AUKUS] is how to express power and influence, that is how to win friends and win markets, not by encouraging others to run up unrepayable debts, not by bullying, but by creating these coalitions of the willing to fix the most urgent problems, and by staying at the forefront of technological advance. And if you have a problem around the world and you need help then let me suggest some reasons why this country, the UK, is the one to have in your coalition. It’s not just because we have record defence spending, the heavy lift capabilities that enabled us to help 36 other countries in Op Pitting from Afghanistan, the special forces, the intelligence services, and the diplomats, so well represented in this room, who by the way as Glasgow has shown us again, are pretty nifty at getting people in a room and finding the language to build a consensus. What we also have are the coders and the software engineers, the scientists and digital entrepreneurs, oh and by the way – we have the bankers too and the lawyers – and the regulators. You want a country that can do scientific breakthroughs, come to us: there is a reason why we have more tech unicorns than anywhere else in Europe. It’s because on the whole people like to come and live and work in the UK, they like the freedom of thought and expression and the rule of law and the nightlife and the museums, and the fact that provided they do no harm to others, on the principle of JS Mill, they can live their lives here as they please.”
“And with our lead in the technologies of tomorrow we can help spread our values, just as we helped to distribute 1.5 bn low cost Astra Zeneca vaccines, and help to fix the problems of humanity. And that is how Global Britain can influence things for the better, not with gunboats, or not solely with gunboats, not with usurious loans, but with public billions leveraging private trillions to drive the expansion of new technological solutions, from bioscience to carbon capture and storage and the production of green hydrogen.”
On becoming a scientific superpower, one of Johnson’s stated ambitions
“We will develop our own coders and bioscientists. We will train up young people in this country, but we will also welcome the brains of the world. We will roll out the red carpet, and kill the fatted calf for the maths Olympiad victors, and the physics geniuses and anybody happens to be watching this while proving Fermat’s last theorem with one hand, and doing the washing up with the other, then get on to our Office for Global Talent and we will sort you out with a visa. And we will take advantage of our new legislative freedoms to regulate with a light touch with minimum bossiness about the management of data. The new Advanced Research and Invention Agency will pursue the search for the things we don’t know we don’t know. And we will set particular targets and ambitions: last year we took a risk and invested in satellites called OneWeb; we now have 358 in orbit and they are on the way to providing high speed internet access to people everywhere. And we know that our national security and prosperity depend on this country’s technological prowess, and we also know that by placing our national advantage at the service of addressing common problems, we will strengthen our friendships around the world.”
On quantum computing, an industry in which policymakers have expressed concern around China’s increasing progress
“So I am setting the ambition that the UK will aim to build the first general purpose quantum computer, and secure fifty percent of the global quantum computing market by 2040.
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