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The UK must hit back against China's 'bullying diplomacy,' a new report warns

Business Insider logo Business Insider 6/30/2020 (Thomas Colson)
Xi Jinping wearing a suit and tie: Getty © Getty Getty
  • Britain should drop its friendly approach to China and hit back against the country's 'bullying diplomacy,' according to a new report.
  • Charles Parton warned that Britain's current strategy of emphasising the 'golden era"'of relations between China and the UK is now 'discredited.'
  • It comes as China on Tuesday formally adopted a highly controversial security law in Hong Kong which critics say is designed to dampen freedom of speech
  • The move was described by foreign secretary Dominic Raab as a 'grave step.'
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Britain should adopt a much more aggressive response to China's "bullying diplomacy," a new report has warned.

In a report by the Policy Institute at King's College London, diplomat and China expert Charles Parton warned that Britain's current strategy of emphasising the "golden era" of relations between China and the UK is now "discredited."

"[China's] behaviours domestically are unlikely to differ from its conduct abroad, a lesson clear from recent bullying diplomacy connected with Covid-19. Disagreement with the CCP is seen as hostile, not as an assertion of the right to conduct affairs differently," Parton, who worked previously on China for the UK Foreign Office, said.

Instead, Parton argued, the UK should begin "resisting China's leverage" and carrying out more research into how vulnerable the UK is to threats from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP.)

He said that while such actions could reduce trade with China "because Beijing threatens countries with "serious consequences" if they adopt policies it dislikes," the potential impact of doing so on Britain's economy has been overstated.

"The truth is that both sides need each other," he wrote. "The UK government need to feel less apprehension and should give greater priority to its own national security, interests, and values.

Tensions between China and the UK have risen sharply in recent weeks amid accusations that Beijing attempted to cover up elements of the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Boris Johnson in January approved a plan for Huawei, the Chinese tech giant, to build part of the UK's new 5G network. But he is under increasing pressure from Conservative colleagues to back out of the plan amid concerns that the move could compromise national security.

China has frequently threatened to withdraw investment if the UK did not comply with its policy demands. In May 2019 and June 2020, for example, Chinese official Chen Wen talked of substantial repercussions of Britain kept Huawei plans, Parton said.

It comes as China on Tuesday formally adopted a highly controversial security law which gives it new powers over Hong Kong, a move which critics say will significantly reduce freedoms on the island.

The law will criminalise offences such as succession, subversion against the Chinese government, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces, CNN reported. The move will likely have the effect of reducing freedom of speech in Hong Kong, pro-democracy activists have warned.

Dominic Raab, the UK foreign secretary, said the move was a "grave step."

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