British parliamentarians are at odds over engagement with China — as Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visits Beijing.

The United Kingdom and other NATO members have taken a schizophrenic approach to relations with China since 2022, alternately attempting to turn Beijing against its ally Russia and accusing the Pacific giant of supplying arms for the conflict in Ukraine.

Cleverly met Chinese Vice-President Han Zheng on Wednesday morning, and will hold talks with his counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi.

That was the same day the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee called for clarity on Downing Street’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific.

The trip was about making sure we are able to speak regularly about bilateral issues — both the areas where we disagree but also areas where we need to cooperate, the fight against climate change.

We are clear-eyed about the areas where we have fundamental disagreements with China and I raise those issues when we meet, but I think it is important we also recognize that we have to have a pragmatic sensible working relationship with China because of the issues that affect us all around the globe.

We are not going to change China overnight and we are certainly not going to do it in one individual meeting. But it is important that we maintain regular dialogue.

Meanwhile the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published an 87-page report in response to the government’s 2021 foreign policy review — which classed Russia as an active threat but referred to China more ambiguously as a systemic challenge — charging that the government’s failure to explain the new stance had led to confusion across Whitehall.

Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns, an MP from the ruling Conservative Party, noted that the state policy towards Beijing was at the highest possible security level, meaning that even some government ministers have not even seen it.

She warned that created big uncertainty for British firms looking to do business with China and for academics, leaving them unsure of the boundaries between caution and collaboration.

But Kearns indicated her leanings when she said the Chinese Communist Party — a common neoconservative shorthand for the Chinese state — are very explicit on what they’re seeking to achieve, and they are therefore exploiting this uncertainty, which is why we have to end it for the publication of an unclassified China strategy.

Cleverly was forced to defend his trip to Beijing from other hawkish backbenches in his own party — including former Tory opposition leader Iain Duncan Smith and short-lived former prime minister Liz Truss, who want to see China officially designated as a dangerous threat.

NATO member states have switched between trying to woo China away from its close relationship with BRICS partner Russia and accusing it of covertly supplying arms to the Russian armed forces during its special military operation in Ukraine, an allegation both Beijing and Moscow have vehemently denied.

Beijing’s framework for peace in Ukraine — which includes a commitment from the West to abandon its tactic of unilateral sanctions on other nations — was largely ignored by NATO.

Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2023.

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Arch Stanton
Arch Stanton
30-08-23 14:41

Should have been arrested the moment the plane touched down.