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Towards a UK strategy and policies for relations with China

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This report examines why the UK government needs a clear strategy for relations with China. It offers suggestions for how to develop a new China strategy and policies that stem from it.

The report says the government should:

  • Give greater priority to UK values, interests and national security – and not allow these to be prejudiced by economic cooperation with China.
  • Carry out research into precisely how vulnerable the UK is to CCP threats to reduce trade, investment, and broader economic and political relations, as such threats may be exaggerated.
  • Enhance the China National Strategy Implementation Group, which currently meets at too low a level to reconcile competing priorities between government departments.
  • Improve how outside experts are consulted and decisions are made on China, while being conscious of the CCP’s efforts to influence academia, think tanks and business.
  • Establish an equivalent of Australia’s National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator, to help prevent CCP interference in UK society.

And by the end of 2020 at the latest, the government should:

  • Set a policy on Chinese participation in the UK’s critical national infrastructure and revisit the Huawei 5G decision.
  • Pass the delayed National Security and Infrastructure Investment bill.
  • Define limits for companies and universities to cooperate with China on civilian-use technologies that may also aid the country’s military development or surveillance apparatus.

About the author

Charles Parton OBE is a Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Charles spent 22 years of his 37 year diplomatic career working in or on China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In his final posting he was seconded to the EU Delegation in Beijing, where, as First Counsellor until late 2016, he focussed on Chinese politicsand internal developments, and advised the EU and Member States on how China’s politics might affect their interests.

He has also worked in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Libya and Mali. In 2017 he set up his own consultancy, China Ink, and was chosen as the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Special Adviser on China; he returned to Beijing for four months as Adviser to the British Embassy to cover the Communist Party’s 19th Congress. He is a trustee of Chinadialogue, a NGO which focuses on China’s environmental issues.