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The report, produced by the Policy Institute at King’s College London argues the UK Government’s approach to the country “was outdated” even before the coronavirus crisis. The report suggests an urgent rethink by Boris Johnson’s administration was needed because of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) alleged “bullying diplomacy” over the pandemic.
It suggests the Government recognises the need for new thinking stressing it needs to draw up and implement new policies “without delay”.
The report adds the Government should work out a “better balance between the benefits and costs of working with China”.
Previously, the last official China strategy paper was produced in 2009 during Gordon Brown’s premiership.
It was then followed by a period in which the government under David Cameron prioritised economic engagement with the country above all else.
However, the Institute says the approach is now “discredited.”
They stress the Government should develop a new China strategy which gives greater priority to UK values, interests and national security and not allow these to be prejudiced by economic cooperation with China.
It also asks the Government to carry out research into precisely how vulnerable the UK is to CCP threats.
These threats, the report says, could reduce trade, investment, and broader economic and political relations but stressed they are often exaggerated.
They also ask the government to review how outside experts are consulted on decisions which are made on China while being conscious of the CCP’s efforts to influence academia, think tanks and business.
It also calls on Boris Johnson’s Government to establish an equivalent of Australia’s National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator, to help prevent CCP interference in UK society.
By the end of 2020, the government should also set a policy on Chinese participation in the UK’s critical national infrastructure and revisit the Huawei 5G decision, the report suggests.
Alongside this, it also called to 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.
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Charles Parton OBE, a former diplomat who spent 22 years working in or on China and author of the report, said: “Both Brexit and Covid-19 have put back the urgent work of formulating a new UK strategy for relations with China.
“Yet its relevance to our long-term future means that delay acts increasingly to our disadvantage.
“Whether or not China becomes the, or even a, superpower by the middle of the century, it will be an important power, and one which affects the UK’s future.
“I hope the proposals in this report can spur on government efforts to redefine its approach to this crucial relationship.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK should continue to work with the “great and rising power” of China.
Mr Johnson said at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this month: “I am a Sinophile and I believe we must continue to work with this great and rising power.”
A HMG spokesperson said: “Our approach to China remains clear-eyed and rooted in our values and interests.
“We have a strong and constructive relationship with China in many areas. China has to be part of the solution to any major global problem we face; whether ensuring we do not face another devastating global health crisis, supporting vulnerable countries or addressing climate change.
“But this relationship does not come at any price. It’s always been the case that where we have concerns we raise them and where we need to intervene we will.”
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