Cleverly to set out Britain's approach to Beijing; One-China principle 'premise' of UK-China cooperation
Published: Apr 25, 2023 10:28 PM
China UK Photo:VCG

China UK Photo:VCG

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is reportedly going to call for "robust and constructive" relations with China during a speech scheduled late Tuesday local time amid a fierce debate in the governing Conservative Party about ties with Beijing. The speech, coming days after Cleverly's remarks in a recent interview that he "fundamentally disagreed" that the Taiwan question was China's domestic matter, reveals the UK's "stupidity" in its China policy as it thinks it can call for cooperation with China while at the same time trampling on China's bottomlines, observers said.

In the address at the City of London's Mansion House, Cleverly is expected to say that 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," but this would be wrong "because it would be a betrayal of our national interest and a willful misunderstanding of the modern world," the Financial Times reported. 

He will also reportedly urge China to be transparent about its "military expansion," claiming the "China is carrying out the biggest military build-up in peace time history." 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning slammed the "military expansion" accusation on Tuesday, calling it "groundless."

"China is the only country in the world that has pledged to 'keep to a path of peaceful development' in its Constitution. We advance modernization through a peaceful way and have never invaded any country. China has always pursued a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. Our national defense building aims at safeguarding its own security," Mao said. 

As to cooperation between China and the UK, Mao noted that China holds a positive attitude toward contact and cooperation with the UK, but will firmly safeguard its national sovereignty, security, and development interests at the same time. 

"We hope that the UK will create a favorable environment for exchanges and cooperation between our two countries through concrete actions," Mao noted. 

During the Tuesday speech, Cleverly is expected to set out a three-pronged approach for relations with Beijing - limiting Chinese involvement in sectors deemed critical for national security, strengthening ties with Indo-Pacific allies and - most controversially - engaging with China directly to promote stable relations, Politico reported. 

Despite the positive call for contact and cooperation with China, observers also noted that in essence, the Sunak government has not swung away from its predecessors' tough strategy toward China on major issues. 

Sunak's China policy looks highly similar to that of the Biden administration. But this is just a pretext. After all, these countries view China as a competitor in all fields, Ma Bo, an assistant researcher at the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies at Nanjing University, told the Global Times. 

John Ross, a British scholar who was formerly Director of Economic and Business Policy for the Mayor of London, said it is "completely stupid" for the UK to want a good relationship with China while it attempts to internationalize the Taiwan question, which is an untouchable redline of China. 

"The Europeans are engaged in stupid and very dangerous things which are against their interests. And then they make hypocritical speeches saying that this is not confrontation. I think that the people of China will laugh at it," Ross said. 

Just three days before Cleverly's speech, the Europe Union's top diplomat Josep Borrell called for European navies to patrol the Taiwan Straits in an article. The remarks caused huge controversy as some Chinese observers said the comments are "extremely dangerous" and signal "a retrogression" of the EU's stance on the Taiwan question following the recent G7 meeting during which the US tried to pressure its allies to take a tougher position on the matter. 

Li Guanjie, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Global Governance and Area Studies, under the Shanghai International Studies University, pointed out some European major powers like Germany and France recently had conducted intense interactions and exchanges with China, especially in the economic arena, achieving a remarkable amount of agreements that boost cooperation with China. 

As one of the major powers in the continent, the UK is anxious to break through the barriers in its communication with China to avoid misunderstandings between the two sides from getting deeper, Li said.

China and the UK have cooperative potentiality in many fields like finance, education and the service industry. But the base for cooperation is respect for each other's interests. In terms of seeking talks with China, the premise is to recognize the one-China principle, Li noted