UK’s Strategy in Asia Post-Brexit

Professor David Martin Jones
19 December 2017

The global balance of power is tilting from West to East. Making sense of that shift is the greatest strategic challenge of the next quarter century. A nuanced understanding of this change is needed. The Asian century is likely to be beset by a series of internal and regional crises that are already beginning to unfold – from population imbalances and property bubbles, to poor governance and intractable national security disputes both on land and in the international waters of the East and South China Seas. Today on the Korean peninsula we are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg of potential troubles.  The task for the UK is to adjust to these new realities without prostrating itself before an imagined version of the future in which the sheer economic clout of Asia becomes the foremost gravitational pull in global affairs. For the next five years, the UK must take the world as it is, not as it imagines it might eventually be. The alliances that Britain has already – defensive, commercial, bi-lateral and multi-lateral – are its best assets in the region. They are realpolitik-plus: that is, they are not only built around mercantilist self-interest but shared approaches to trade, open markets, international security and the preservation of the global commons. The first priority of UK strategy in Asia must be to ensure that these alliances are maintained and, where possible, bolstered – particularly in South and Southeast Asia. A strategic stance tuned to twenty-first century realities, rather than appeals to historical sentiment, will provide a far more effective basis for utilizing Commonwealth links to India, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

About the Speaker: David Martin Jones is a Visiting Fellow at Policy Exchange, Professor in the War Studies Department, King’s College London and Honorary Reader in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Queensland. He has written several books on East and Southeast Asian politics and international relations – most recently Asian Security and the Rise of China (with Nick Khoo and M.L.R. Smith). His articles on aspects of Asian politics have appeared in International Security, International Affairs, Comparative Politics, Orbis, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, The Australian Journal of International Affairs, The World Today, The Australian, The Spectator, The Straits Times, The Australian Financial Review, The Daily Telegraph, Quadrant and Policy.