The UK Must Do More to Counter China – Conservative Article
Since the 2019 election, Johnson and the Conservatives have done little to counter China. While they have banned Huawei from 5G, not much else has been done. This is understandable, given that the government has been occupied by the coronavirus crisis. However, moving into next year our actions and rhetoric must step up. China has shown that it is moving into the category of a rogue state, challenging the international world order and other states.
Firstly, a note on coronavirus. China did not intentionally make or release this pandemic as some have suggested. They are not responsible for the devastation caused. However, their silencing of doctors, not allowing the WHO into Wuhan and their dubious coronavirus data must be kept in mind. It shows that China is not willing to co-operate with the international community. COVID-19 has even benefitted China in some ways.
Hong Kong is one area where we must do more. The UK offered citizenship to 3 million people at the start of July in response to the crisis, however, there were no sanctions placed on China over its actions in Hong Kong. When sanctions were introduced to target human rights abusers, there were no Chinese names.
Four months later after the citizenship offer, the UK is ‘considering‘ sanctioning China over their actions in Hong Kong. This is shocking. We still have not taken action. We should not forget the people we promised to help. The US however quickly reacted by removing Hong Kong’s special status in regard to trading and passed sanctions. The UK should have had a stronger reaction, especially because China betrayed its agreement with us.
Another area for concern is the South China Sea. This is an issue that is slowly bubbling away in the background, with little media coverage. China is claiming sovereignty over the sea, using the historical nine-dashed line for the basis of its claims against other countries like the Philippines and Vietnam. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said that this line had no legal basis in international law. However, China has merely ignored this with little consequence. It has built military installations, ports and airstrips on the Parcel and Spratly Islands in order to assert control over the region.
Where does the UK fit into this you might ask?
The UK has interests in the South China Sea that it must be willing to stand up for. 12% of our sea borne trade passes through the area. This must be protected. Our trade will only increase in the area due to the growing economies of the region, and the UK’s interest to expand its non-European trading partners post-Brexit. We should support our allies in the region, such as Vietnam. We should also show stronger support for the activities of the US and Australia in the region. To use a liberal argument, if we want international law to mean something, we must stand up to protect it. China is proving the realist argument by ignoring international bodies and law with no consequence.
Britain has had a limited presence in the South China Sea. In 2018, HMS Albion sailed through the South China Sea, however, more should be done. The Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is due to sail near the Indo-Pacific, though with no route specified. It must sail through the South China Sea. It would remind China that the UK is also watching their actions, along with Australia and the USA. Personally, I think the UK should establish a permanent naval presence to reaffirm this. Our tone should step up. The Henry Jackson Society came up with several policies to counter China, including:
- Emphasising the importance of the South China Sea.
- Joining established regional architecture or working with allies to create our own.
- Operate on a Freedom of the Sea policy to protect international waters and trade routes.
Hopefully, with the military investment that was recently announced for the navy, we will be able to improve our response to this problem. We should work with our allies in the South China Sea, the USA and Australia, to coordinate an effective response of naval pressure and sanctions. The review of our foreign policy will hopefully suggest that Britain takes stronger action against China, with both an increased military presence and sanctions. We must be cautious, however, because China has a strong navy that it might deploy in order to protect its interests. Its navy is the strongest in the world, and it is only getting stronger. However, I don’t think they will commit themselves to a violent conflict in the region. No one wants war.
Pursuing a more critical role of China might damage the prospects of a trade agreement with them. However, while China is following confrontation and isolation, this is not possible anyway. When China does not pursue this policy, a trade agreement will be available.
Another issue that the international community should watch is the rising tensions between China and India, showing that China continues to isolate itself.
If the UK wants to truly stand up to China, it must do it with the international community that China is alienating.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
A Good Idea in Theory, but we may need China post-Brexit – A Labour Response
Unusually, I find myself agreeing with Kieran. The UK absolutely does need to more to challenge China. Particularly for the human rights violations seen in Hong Kong and in the treatment of the Uighur Muslim population. Unfortunately, I do not believe that our government will pursue such foreign policy due to our vulnerability post-Brexit.
The only action the UK has made against China regarding these human rights violations was in an open letter written by UK lawmakers condemning their treatment. Only three days ago, the International Crimes Court decided it would not investigate China’s detention of Uighur Muslims, so for the UK to push for sanctions would be a bold move. One that we cannot afford when trying to draw up advantageous trade deals.
There is hope in the US-UK trade agreement, just signed. If we can potentially build a sufficient trade deal with America, we will then have some stability and ground to oppose China. However, this will not happen anytime soon as Biden has already said he would not sign a UK–US trade deal as soon as he takes office.
The reality is, that for some time, trade agreements and friendly relations will dominate our foreign policy. For that reason, I am sceptical that Johnson will take any action against China beyond what we’ve already seen.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Abi Smuts
We are not returning to Cold War 2.0 – A Liberal Response
I always enjoy reading Kieran’s articles. No matter my opinion, they are always well researched and offer a fresh take on any issue. Unfortunately, in this case, I am actually extremely concerned with Kieran’s comments. It is rhetoric that belongs in the 1960s as if we are returning to the world of the Cold War and Vietnam. I can see the next step; deploying troops to the South China Sea. If we do not learn from the mistakes of history we are bound to repeat them.
Starting with Hong Kong, no one would disagree with the fact the UK needs to do more. However, to move straight to sanctions and waving our navy around sends the wrong message. It shows to China we want to bully them, not the other way round. What is required is negotiation. We should act as the peacemaker between Hong Kong and China. This is not to say sanctions won’t be used, but only in the far distance future if China fails to play ball.
Regarding the South China Sea, Kieran undermines himself as he says that China’s expansion into the Sea is unknown, yet has news sources to quote. Another point that has been missed is the impact of China on Africa and South America. The fault here is not China’s, it’s ours. We abandoned these countries first, and then got annoyed when China intervened? We have decided these areas don’t matter, don’t deserve our time and our diplomacy.
The moment China offers support, we flip the table and want to return the world to a Cold War. We need to realise that rising and third world countries need our support. If we turn our back on them, of course, they will look for support from those who offer it.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Max Anderson