UK urged not act as US ‘pawn’ amid reported consideration of curbs on Chinese investment
Published: Aug 22, 2023 09:08 PM
China UK Photo: VCG

China UK Photo: VCG

Chinese experts on Tuesday urged the UK to make strategic moves wisely and not to act as a US "pawn" to suppress China, responding to reports that the UK is considering curbs on investment in key Chinese technology sectors due to national security. 

British firms were reportedly quizzed by the UK government through a survey in late July asking if they had invested in 17 areas from advanced materials and robotics to transport, energy and more sectors, Politico reported, adding that the survey also sought to learn about investment in other countries and regions in addition to China and was designed to understand the investment flows in "sensitive sectors."

The move comes hard on the heels of a promise to "more closely align" with the US on policies to prevent the transfer to China of so-called "dual-use technology," which has both civilian and military applications, according to the report, adding that the still-embryonic national security move has sparked fears that the government could cast the net too widely with jitters about the impact on the local microchips sector. 

The UK has been lacking strategic autonomy in handling major foreign affairs and interactions with China, while acting as a "strategic pawn" of the US, Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Zhao urged the UK to view cooperation with China through a pragmatic perspective rather than playing the "two-faced" game. Zhao stressed that such a practice is not conducive to the healthy and sustainable development of bilateral relations. 

The release of the reported survey came as British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is due to visit China at the end of this month, Reuters reported on Monday, describing the "long-awaited trip seeking to stabilize a turbulent relationship that has sunk to its lowest point in decades."

UK investment in China in the first seven months of 2023 grew by 159.9 percent, according to data from China's Ministry of Commerce.
Politico's report noted that officials from the UK's Department for Business and Trade have told companies that the UK will curb investment into China's semiconductor, artificial intelligence and quantum computing technology like the US. 

However, the rules may hurt companies that license chip design to Chinese manufacturers and force them to make hard choices, read the report. 

The reported restrictions would hinder the development of relevant UK enterprises as they may face obstacles in their overall development and further expansion in China, Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Xiang said that the US curbs have had a negative impact on its companies that previously gained in China through investment. 

The British Chamber of Commerce in China said in May that a majority of UK-based businesses had greater optimism about the Chinese market. In a survey conducted by the chamber in April, 76 percent of businesses reported feeling more optimistic about the coming year following China's reopening.