Boris Johnson Warns That a Cold War With China Would Be a “Mistake” as He Is Attacked by MPs for Cosying up to China
Boris Johnson has been labelled naive by MPs following the publication of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which stated that Britain would need to pursue a positive economic relationship with China.
The review championed “deeper trade links” with China and more Chinese investment in the UK.
The 114-page document, titled Global Britain in a Competitive Age, named China as “the biggest-state based threat to the UK’s economic security” and a “systemic competitor.” The review came in the wake of rising pressure from Conservative MP’s, calling on the government to harden its line against China over issues such as its genocide of Uyghur Muslims and restrictions of the democratic rights of Hong Kongers.
The publication has seen the Prime Minister come under fire from Conservative MP’s and Intelligence staff after the review stated that Britain would need to pursue a positive economic relationship with China, including “deeper trade links and more Chinese investment in the UK”. The review exhibits a desire for the UK to view China as a “systemic competitor,” declaring that the country’s “increasing power and international assertiveness are likely to be the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s.” Consequently, the government will seek to preserve “space for co-operation” with China where “interests align.”
On the 12th of February, the Prime Minister chaired a roundtable meeting at Downing Street with Chinese businessmen where he expressed his determination to rebuild trade links with China following the suspensions of the Economic and Financial Dialogue Forum - an annual discussion between China and the UK - and the China-UK Joint Trade and Economic Commission (Jetco). The suspensions came in retaliation to China’s violations of civil liberties in Hong Kong. At the meeting, the Prime Minister declared himself to be “fervently Sinophile” and expressed his determination to improve ties with China despite “occasional political difficulties”. Later, a leaked phone call released by The Huffington Post revealed that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated that if Britain traded only with countries that met European Convention on Human Rights standards it would miss out on the “growth markets of the future”.
Following the publication of the review yesterday, Senior Tory MPs attacked Prime Minister Johnson, cautioning him against returning to the conventions of the David Cameron years. Julian Lewis, chairman of the intelligence and security committee, stated that Britain wanted deeper trade links with its “adversary Communist China”, adding: “Doesn’t that, unfortunately, demonstrate that the grasping naivety of the Cameron-Osborne years still lingers on?” Sir Alex Younger, former head of MI6, said that the state represented a “generational threat,” and the idea that the UK and China could develop harmoniously was “clearly for the birds.”
In the foreword of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the Prime Minister states that to maximise success for Britain, the future will require an “agility and speed of action, [which] will enable us to deliver for our citizens, enhancing our prosperity and security.” In the House of Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson responded to the plans for Anglo-Chinese relations, stating:
“Those who call for a new cold war on China or for us to sequester our economy entirely from China are mistaken … We have a balance to strike, we needed to have a clear-eyed relationship with China. We will take tough measures as I have said to call out China for what they’re doing in Xinjiang”