The Anglosphere is by far the oddest animal among today’s great powers, but it is no less real for this. Not a country as China, the US, Japan, and India are, the major English-speaking portions of the former British Empire are not even as centralized as the EU. However, despite this heterogeneity, the Anglosphere is more than coherent enough to be considered a great power on its own in our new era.
That is because, in practical policy terms, the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada so often act together. In all of the last tumultuous century’s major strategic contests, including the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War — much like a bickering Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who always came out of the fray shooting together — all the Anglosphere countries found themselves on the same side. This record of strategic closeness is unparalleled, and it is not an accident.
Beyond marching in geostrategic lockstep on the big things, the Anglosphere economies are tightly bound together. With the UK decisively turning away from the EU, they are likely to be even more so in the future. In 2017, the combined economies of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand accounted for fully 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.
The five already invest very heavily in each other’s economies, which are densely interlinked. For example, the UK is the largest investor in US companies, with foreign direct investment (FDI) amounting to $540 billion. Likewise, the US is the primary investor in the UK, with accumulated stock of nearly $750 billion. At the same time, the UK is the second largest source of FDI in Australia, while also being the second largest recipient of Australian FDI in 2019.
Beyond geostrategy and economics, in terms of intelligence matters the Anglosphere is already a superpower. The “Five Eyes” amounts to the largest intelligence-sharing consortium in the world. All five countries have openly shared signals intelligence since 1956, targeting the Soviet Union, global terrorism, and now the rise of China.
For all these practical policy reasons, the Anglosphere is best thought of as the most important great power of which little is said in the modern world. And, with the rise of China, the Anglosphere has found a common enemy to tighten its already formidable common bonds.
For the UK, the break with Beijing follows a politically embarrassing U-turn over allowing Huawei, China’s telecoms giant, to have a stake in establishing Britain’s new 5G networks. Rather unthinkingly, the Johnson government initially signaled Huawei would play a lead role in the vital project, only to be wholly unprepared for the firestorm from fellow Anglosphere countries that followed.
Huawei has long had extremely close ties (by Western standards) with the Chinese government, as is true of all the country’s major economic players. Beijing’s national security law of 2017 states plainly that the country’s businesses must “support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.” This makes it crystal clear that, if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) asks a Chinese business to hand over the personal data of its customers, there is no way it would refuse.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo led the charge to get its Anglosphere ally to change its decision. In June, he charged that Huawei was “an extension of the CCP’s surveillance state.” Practically, Pompeo made it clear that, without revision, the UK’s place in Five Eyes might itself be called into question, as “American information should only pass across a trusted network.”
Belatedly jolted into action, the Johnson government began a torturous climbdown.
In January, it capped Huawei’s market share in the UK’s 5G network at 35 percent.
By May, the UK government announced it planned to entirely phase out all Huawei technology from its network by 2023.
Beyond US pleas, what has really turned the tide is China’s brutal clampdown in Hong Kong.
Dr. John C. Hulsman
Beyond US pleas, what has really turned the tide is China’s brutal clampdown in Hong Kong, the former UK colony. Now graphically aware that the Sino-UK deal, which turned the territory over to the Beijing of “one country, two systems,” is in the process of being entirely undermined, China’s intentions have suddenly become chillingly clear to London. Presently, the Johnson government is being pressured to go back on even allowing Huawei limited involvement in its 5G network at all. True to form, and utterly counter-productively, the Chinese ambassador to the UK has ominously threatened that Britain will “bear the consequences” if it goes back on the Huawei deal.
However, the ultimate outcome is no longer in doubt. Compared to other NATO allies such as Germany and France, which have kept the Huawei option open for their own 5G networks, it is clear that all the Anglosphere countries (with Australia and the US having rejected Huawei outright, while Canada and New Zealand have chosen more expensive if safer options) have uniformly rejected Huawei’s bid to have a stake in the running of their 5G networks in the long term. Once again, the five major partners in the Anglosphere find themselves on the same side of history.