National flag of the People's Republic of China in front of the Chinese embassy in Berlin 240720 CREDIT Marc Vorwerk/SULUPRESS.DE/DPA/PA Images
China

China: Has The UK Taken A Balanced Stance?

The publication of the Integrated Review has raised questions over the Government's approach to China.

National flag of the People's Republic of China in front of the Chinese embassy in Berlin 240720 CREDIT Marc Vorwerk/SULUPRESS.DE/DPA/PA Images

Questions have been raised over the UK's approach to China, and whether the correct balance has been struck.

Following the publication of the long-awaited Integrated Review on Tuesday, Boris Johnson told the Commons that Britain will "relearn the art of competing against states with opposing values".

The Prime Minister's comments came amid scrutiny of the Government's response to emerging Chinese threats and a new era of competition, as it looks to reshape defence for the coming years.

He said the UK will work with China where it is "consistent with our values and interests", including building a "stronger and positive" economic relationship and addressing climate change.

Mr Johnson said the UK has led international condemnation of China's "mass detention" of Uighur people in Xinjiang and its actions in Hong Kong – reiterating the UK's refuge offer "to three million Hong Kong Chinese who may be in fear of persecution", when prompted by Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, Chair of the Defence Committee.

Mr Ellwood raised concerns over China, urging the UK to "call out" the country as a geostrategic threat.

"There is a 1930s feel to the scale of challenges that we face today with rising authoritarian powers, weak global institutions and an absence of Western leadership and collective resolve," he said.

Wider criticism of Mr Johnson's strategy followed, although some are reserving judgement on the UK's handling of relations with its unique trade partner.

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, gave the BFBS Sitrep podcast his response to the Government's stance on China.

Watch: A look at the key announcements in the Integrated Review.

"The Prime Minister actually set out some pretty harsh language on China that is slightly veiled, but it's worth exposing," he told the podcast.

"The comments about the strategic challenge are about the fact that China is trying to rewrite the rules that have kept us all, broadly speaking, peaceful and prosperous for about 70 years.

Mr Tugendhat said the UK's stance is "pretty harsh on China" and that it is "pretty clear where Britain stands" –although adding that the UK most commit wholly to strategies before the strategy itself can be judged.

Mr Johnson has declared a balance must be achieved in the UK's approach to China.

He acknowledged China as a "great challenge for an open society" like Britain but said the countries will aim to address issues such as climate change together and continue to improve economic ties.

The Prime Minister said those calling "for a new Cold War on China or for us to sequester our economy entirely from China" are mistaken.

Mr Tugendhat said a greater focus on the Indo-Pacific region, where the US has maintained a military presence for several years, must be more than "a sailpast" of HMS Queen Elizabeth or "the odd trip by a frigate".

"It's got to be an enduring presence – anything less will be symbolic, and this isn't a time for showmanship.

"This is a time for actual commitment to our partners and allies in the rules-based system," he added.

For more discussion on the Integrated Review and other defence headlines from the week, click through to the latest episode of the BFBS Sitrep podcast.

Cover image: Chinese flag (Picture: PA).