LSE China Development Forum 2023

Danny Quah
Feb 2023

I participated this past weekend in LSE's China Development Forum in the Sheikh Zayed Theatre (where over decades I'd previously taken part in many memorable events). I spoke on Sino-British Relations in a Divided World. I made two observations, from which I drew one conclusion on possible ways forwards.

LSE China Development Forum 2023 Poster

First, the great geopolitical reality of our time is Great Power Rivalry. The UK can seek to navigate that global landscape by continuing to view itself as punching above its weight and going it alone, going along with US rhetoric on the primacy of values in "the great twilight struggle of modernity", my paraphrasing of JFK and Hannah Arendt. Or the UK can appreciate how Third Nations comprise the democratic majority of the world --- 80% of the world's population --- and therefore coming together with others on those issues all of us share --- (and that's not so hard to identify) national sovereignty, territorial integrity, a level playing field, multilateralism, openness to trade and exchange --- can be an impact multiplier for Third Nation agency and influence.


Second, critical is to reject the Thucydides Fallacy, the idea that only Great Powers do what they will, the rest of us having to suffer what we must.

In the early 1970s the fiercely anti-communist Richard Nixon went to Beijing in reconciliation, an act of extraordinary geopolitical leadership given how China was still a dangerous nation. But also (impressed upon me by Elizabeth Ingleson) this was only when Third Nation after Third Nation had already rejected China's isolation as an organizing plank for world order.