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Thursday, 16 November, 2023

Foreign Secretary says UK must engage with China

Foreign Secretary says UK must engage with China

James Cleverly will claim isolating China is a “betrayal” of the national interest in a speech setting out the Government’s position on Beijing.

The Foreign Secretary will say the UK must engage directly with the country in order to promote stability in a keynote address to the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet in London.

He is set to deny China should be classed as a “threat”, arguing its scale and complexity cannot be reduced to one-word descriptions.

Mr Cleverly will break from tradition by dedicating the speech – which foreign secretaries typically use to set out their views on a broad range of foreign policy issues – entirely to talk of Beijing.

“No significant global problem – from climate change to pandemic prevention, from economic stability to nuclear proliferation – can be solved without China,” he is expected to say at the event on Tuesday.

“To give up on China would be to give up on addressing humanity’s biggest problems.

“It would be clear and easy – perhaps even satisfying – for me to declare a new Cold War and say that our goal is to isolate China.

“Clear, easy, satisfying – and wrong. Because it would be a betrayal of our national interest and a wilful misunderstanding of the modern world.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said that while the speech would advocate for constructive engagement with the country, the UK must be realistic about its authoritarianism.

“We do not expect our disagreements with China to be swiftly overcome, but we do expect China to observe the laws and obligations that it has freely accepted,” Mr Cleverly will say.

“Peaceful co-existence has to begin with respecting fundamental laws and institutions, including the UN Charter, which protects every country against invasion”.

Mr Cleverly will argue the UK’s “multifaceted” approach must be three-pronged: first to strengthen national security protections whenever Beijing poses a threat; second to deepen cooperation with allies in the Indo-Pacific region to uphold international law, and third to engage directly with China.

He will also urge China to be transparent about its military expansion, saying the UK is “prepared to be open about our presence in the Indo-Pacific” and encouraging China to be “equally open”.

“At this moment, China is carrying out the biggest military build-up in peacetime history,” Mr Cleverly will warn.

“Secrecy can only increase the risk of tragic miscalculation,” he will say.

The speech will condemn Chinese repression and pledge that the UK will continue to highlight the suffering of the Uyghur people, branding the mass incarceration in Xinjiang a “21st century version of the gulag archipelago”.

“Our revulsion is heartfelt and shared unanimously across our country and beyond. We are not going to let what is taking place in Xinjiang drop or be brushed aside,” Mr Cleverly will say.

It comes as the Foreign Secretary is understood to want to visit China after warning that the UK should not “pull the shutters down” on the country.

His comments could anger Tory backbenchers, many of whom hold a more aggressive stance on Beijing and have voiced concerns about possible appeasement.

It comes after former prime minister Liz Truss urged ministers to ensure Beijing can never join the Indo-Pacific trade bloc – concerns which were echoed by former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

Ms Truss had been expected to designate China as a “threat” during her short-lived leadership, but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has instead described the nation as a “systemic challenge”.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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