UK’s Cleverly to urge against isolating China
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will on Tuesday argue it would be “a betrayal” of Britain’s national interest to isolate China and urge against declaring “a new Cold War”.
In a speech in London setting out Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s foreign policy towards Beijing after a review, Cleverly will advocate constructive engagement on key global issues.
But he will also vow to strengthen national security protections in the face of China’s military build-up, and deepen cooperation with allies in the Indo-Pacific region to uphold international law.
“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,” Cleverly will say at an annual speech given by Britain’s foreign secretary.
“Clear, easy, satisfying — and wrong. Because it would be a betrayal of our national interest and a wilful misunderstanding of the modern world.”
The stance will likely anger hawkish elements in the ruling Conservative party, who have been pushing for several years for London to adopt a more bullish approach towards Beijing.
Former Tory party leader Iain Duncan-Smith, one of 10 UK organisations and individuals sanctioned by China in 2021 over their criticisms, last year called its rulers a “brutal, dictatorial, ghastly regime”.
In a refresh of its strategic foreign and defence policy, the government in March detailed plans to bolster military and security spending to confront the “epoch-defining challenge” posed by China.
– ‘Miscalculation’ –
But in his speech, Cleverly will also argue that “to give up on China would be to give up on addressing humanity’s biggest problems”.
“No significant global problem — from climate change to pandemic prevention, from economic stability to nuclear proliferation — can be solved without China,” he is expected to say.
“We do not expect our disagreements with China to be swiftly overcome, but we do expect China to observe the laws and obligations that it has freely accepted.”
Cleverly will urge Beijing to respect “fundamental laws and institutions, including the UN Charter, which protects every country against invasion”, in an apparent veiled reference to Taiwan.
Earlier this month China launched three days of military exercises around the self-ruled island — simulating targeted strikes and a blockade — in response to a meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Britain’s top diplomat will also urge China to be transparent about its military expansion, noting it is carrying out “the biggest military build-up in peacetime history”.
“Secrecy can only increase the risk of tragic miscalculation,” he will add.
British media reported that Cleverly is understood to want to visit China. It would be the first by a UK foreign secretary since now-finance minister Jeremy Hunt went to Beijing in 2018.