It’s “increasingly concerning” that the UK government doesn’t have a coherent China strategy amid growing tensions between the two countries, the chair of the International Relations and Defence Committee said.
The committee’s new report, published Sept. 10, said the deliberate ambiguity and the inconsistent China policies of the three most recent governments mean that there’s “no clear sense of what the current government’s strategy towards China is, or what values and interests it is trying to uphold in the UK–China relationship.”
The committee said that while the government’s Integrated Review of security, defense, development, and foreign policy published in March alluded to the key tension in the UK–China relationship, which is “balancing a desire for close economic engagement with the need to uphold the UK’s values and protect its national security,” there was no indication of how the tension would be solved.
“In an atmosphere of growing tensions between the UK and China, the distinct lack of any clear position from the government on China has become increasingly concerning,” committee Chair Baroness Anelay of St Johns said in a statement.
“Throughout this inquiry, we heard evidence of a ‘have its cake and eat it’ approach in the government’s relationship with China and the evidence we heard from ministers did nothing to convince us this was not the case.”
Anelay said the government has ignored previous parliamentary calls demanding it to produce a China strategy, and only provided “vague statements” in the Integrated Review and to the committee.
The report also highlighted the fact that there was no mention of Taiwan in the Integrated Review.
There’s a lack of understanding of China, “particularly within Whitehall,” including the Chinese regime’s intention regarding Taiwan, the report said. The committee said it learned that Taiwan is “currently the most important issue” in the U.S.–China relationship, and it’s crucial for U. S. allies including the UK.
“Even if a military confrontation would be risky for China and perhaps not in its interests, similar things have been said about many past wars that did occur; the prospect of miscalculation is always present,” the report reads.
The committee said that if such an armed conflict draws in China and the United States, there would be catastrophic consequences for the UK and the world.
The committee called on the government to produce “a single, coherent China strategy,” and a plan of execution.
Regarding climate change, which “cannot be addressed without engagement with China,” the committee called on the government to explain its engagement plan within its China strategy.
The committee also urges the government to produce a risk assessment on Taiwan, establish “effective and reliable” partnerships with existing and potential allies, uncut foreign aid budget to restore the UK’s soft power, and introduce “an atrocity prevention lens” in its trade approach to uphold values such as human rights and labor protections.
In a statement emailed to The Epoch Times, a Foreign Office spokesperson said that “the Integrated Review clearly sets out the UK’s strategic approach to China.”
“As the Integrated Review says, we will implement a more robust framework for our relationship with China which allows us to manage disagreements, defend our values while preserving space to tackle transnational challenges such as climate change. We will continue to pursue a positive trade and investment relationship with China, while ensuring our national security and values are protected,” the statement reads.