Cameron’s Beijing connections

The following op-ed appeared in today’s Taipei Times:

The recent return of former British prime minister David Cameron to frontline politics was a surprise to many. As part of a British Cabinet reshuffle, Cameron was appointed secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who concurrently bestowed a life peerage on his predecessor, ennobling him as Baron Cameron of Chipping Norton.

Cameron has critics on all sides: For the left, he symbolizes the misery of the austerity years, when — on the back of the global economic downturn — a huge budget deficit drove his decision to slash public spending in the UK. The measures he and then-chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne undertook led to more than £30 billion (US$38.1 billion) in cuts to social services, welfare and housing subsidies, with evidence showing that the most vulnerable in society suffered disproportionately.

For the Brexiteers, Cameron is a spineless cop-out who called a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, then — to paraphrase a notorious rant by one British celebrity — “scuttled off” into the sunset to put “his trotters up” when things did not go according to plan.

Now, less than two weeks after his return, another troubling aspect of Cameron’s tenure as prime minister has reared its head: his unabashed love affair with China. Following the emergence of footage from a September event in Dubai, which showed Cameron touting the benefits of Chinese investment in Port City Colombo project in Sri Lanka, questions were raised in the British House of Commons last week regarding the new foreign secretary’s role in the project.

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