All eyes were on Watford last week as Tesco unveiled the first incarnation of a new model for its big-box Extra format.

All eyes were on Watford last week as Tesco unveiled the first incarnation of a new model for its big-box Extra format.

The shop made a good first impression, providing encouragement that concrete measures are being taken to put Tesco back on track in its core domestic market.

It’s not just at home that Tesco has hit turbulence though. There have been signs of stress in its international empire too. From California in the west to China in the East, Tesco’s expeditionary forces have been under siege.

In the West, like Caesar’s army, Tesco has already sounded the retreat. The grocer had hoped to sell its Fresh & Easy business to a single buyer but the process has become mired and a closure or piecemeal disposal looks most likely.

In China, Tesco has acted to maintain a foothold in the fast-growing market by finding a local ally rather than continuing to go it alone.

Tesco intends to put its business into a joint venture with China Resources Enterprise, creating a business with sales of £10bn in which Tesco will have a 20% stake.

The deal has disappointed some, who think Tesco is now paying a price for being too late into China in comparison with rivals such as Carrefour and Walmart.

But at the time of Tesco’s full-year results Clarke said that in China, along with India and Turkey, the retailer would “focus efforts on establishing and then pursuing a profitable approach to growth”.

The deal with China Resources is the result. CRE, according to Tesco, will bring deep understanding of customers and experience of joint ventures with other international companies.

Tesco will contribute “global retail expertise, international sourcing scale and supply chain capabilities”. The ambition is to “form the leading multi-format retailer in China”.

Whatever complaints might be made about mistakes in the past, it’s good that Tesco believes it has found a way forward in China after the salutary £1bn writedown suffered in the States.

If the plans – and those in place elsewhere internationally - work, Clarke should continue to preside over a multinational business rather than the decline and fall of a retail Roman empire.