British foreign policy, when it comes to Beijing, is at crossroads, according to a new report by the UK Foreign Affairs Committee that stresses Westminster’s “unwillingness to face this reality.”
“China and the Rules-Based International System” document has outlined the current framework of UK policy towards China. The UK politicians suggested that UK leadership “risks prioritising economic considerations over other interests, values and national security.”
While the UK sees a crucial trade partner in China, it dismisses significant misgivings on the part of the Chinese government in relation to “international laws, norms, rules and institutions,” said the report.
“We have grounds for concern about Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G infrastructure. We heard allegations about attempted interference in the UK’s domestic affairs and the impact the treatment of the Uighur-Muslim population and other minorities in China’s Xinjiang province could have in stirring up resentment that could affect other countries including us, here in the UK,” the Chair of the Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said.
End of last year, the UK Defence Minister has reportedly expressed concerns about the role of Chinese firm Huawei in upgrading the UK’s mobile network amid allegations of the company’s links to the Chinese state — claims denied by Beijing.
READ MORE: UK Defence Secretary Expresses ‘Deep Concerns’ Over Huawei Role in UK 5G Network
“We must recognise that there are hard limits to what cooperation can achieve,” Tom Tugendhat MP also said, as part of commentary on the new UK-China report.
He argued that the values and interests of the Chinese Communist Party are very different from those of the United Kingdom. However, it doesn’t mean London should seek confrontation with China — or abandon cooperation, he added.
“We do think that a constructive, pragmatic and often positive UK relationship with China is possible. Indeed, it’s essential. But achieving this will require strategy, rigour and unity in place of hope and muddling through,” Tugendhat stressed.
Since the 2016 referendum on its membership of the European Union and the decision to exit the bloc, Britain has been on the lookout to strengthen its ties with countries outside the EU, including China.
China is the UK’s fifth largest trading partner, with the UK-China trade in 2016 totalling to £59.1 billion.
The need for non-EU trading partners should not come in the way of scrutinizing relationships with other countries.
“Not permit core principles, such as freedom of navigation and the rights of countries to form alliances, to become a matter for negotiation in economic dialogue with China”, the report recommended.