Beijing to Britain
Parliament declares genocide, statements on Hong Kong, HSBC
The United Kingdom now has the starting point of a new ‘China Strategy’ - albeit a modest couple of pages in a much longer document, the Integrated Review, setting out the country’s foreign policy. Government will use this to attempt to align political behaviour with regards to Departments, and provide clarity to businesses operating between both countries.
This starting point on a strategy for China will continue to prove highly contentious. Political views will remain polarised, and those MPs active on China will likely push for further clarification.
The Review adds credence to our view that two loose schools of thought have emerged in Westminster. One calls for a fundamental reset of British relations with China, championing human rights over trade, and pushing for all engagement to be through a values-led approach. The other school pushes for a realpolitik approach; while the so-called ‘Golden Era’ may be over, it is better to keep China at the table through diplomacy and trade, even at the expense of human rights - without these, the UK has no leverage or bargaining chips.
The majority of China-centric politicians in the UK can roughly be placed into one of these schools, although their views often change depending on the issue at play. It’s worth noting that neither school believes that an enriched Chinese middle class will steer the country towards democracy. While the Government may pretend that is has strategised around the values-led approach advocated by the first school, is the latter approach that it has chosen to embrace in a hybrid fashion, by portraying trade as a vehicle to hold China to account.
And so ‘Beijing to Britain’ was born - a weekly overview of the ebbs and flows of this discussion, and how it impacts politics, the private sector and society.
As always: tips, feedback, and your views to BeijingToBritain@protonmail.com.
Parliament declares genocide in Xinjiang
Solar power Xinjiang
British attitudes to China
First, a quick look at this week for China in Parliament
74 mentions of China
1 mention of Xi Jinping
39 mentions of Hong Kong
23 mentions of Uyghurs
4 mention of CCP
12 mentions of Magnitsky
589 out of 650 MPs (90.6%) have a Twitter account.
Who’s asking what?
Some of the more notable questions asked of the Government this week
Andrea Jenkyns (Conservative) asked “the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what progress his Department has made on pursuing reform of financial services regulation to support participation in growing markets in Asia.”
Darren Jones (Labour) asked “the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, whether he has made an assessment of the potential effect of the number of people choosing to migrate to the UK from Hong Kong on the availability of affordable housing; and what steps he is taking to ensure that an increase in demand for that housing does not lead to a lack of affordable housing stock for people who need it.”
A very on-the-nose case made for arming Saudi Arabia in the House of Commons on Tuesday by Conservative MP Marco Longhi:
Where arms are sold, there will always be questions asked, and rightly so. But armaments and technologies are advancing at such a pace that once a country decides to tie itself to another for that supply, the supplying country can exert influence. We account for about 20% of Saudi arms imports. I submit to colleagues that it is far better for stability in the region and for jobs at home that it is the UK that has that influence.
I know Labour Members hate capitalism, but if we withdraw sales from Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia will simply seek suppliers from other countries—that could be Russia or even China. Do hon. Members really want Russia and China to fill that supply vacuum? We have seen their behaviour in Crimea and Xinjiang.
Parliament declares genocide, Hong Kong, Five Eyes
On Thursday evening, Parliament recognised the situation in Xinjiang to be genocide. Let’s go through the process.
Nusrat Ghani MP (IPAC) applied for a Backbench Business Debate (BBD). This is an opportunity for backbench Members of Parliament to bring forward debates of their choice; they typically take place late afternoon and usually on a Thursday.
The motion put forward by Ghani was:
"That this House believes that Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are suffering Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide. And calls upon the Government to act to fulfil their obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and all relevant instruments of international law to bring it to an end.”
The debate itself ran for just over two hours, and featured a range of familiar faces (many of whom are IPAC members). Notably absent? Tom Tugendhat, Neil O’Brien (both sanctioned via their China Research Group) as well as Richard Graham, the chair of the APPG on China.
Rather than go through the transcript (view it here), we will summarise the debate thematically:
Sanctions: MPs from all parties called for further sanctions against CCP officials, specifically Chen Quanguo (陈全国), Chinese Communist Party Committee Secretary of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Political Commissar of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
Frozen UN: The frustration among the MPs in the Chamber was that China controls a significant veto power as a member of the UN Security Council which hampers calls for genocide investigation.
Supply chains: An ongoing sore point for some MPs, there were repeated calls for supply chains legislation to be tightened, with Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang being the focal point.
Uyghur Tribunal: Multiple MPs called for the FCDO to work with Sir Geoffrey Nice QC’s tribunal into Uyghur genocide.
Greenwashing: Your writer was interested by Iain Duncan Smith’s inclusion of the concept that China’s human rights violations would be overlooked in return for it agreeing to and actioning key climate change commitments. Seems likely that this will be a point that gets raised significantly more over the coming months.
Boycotting Beijing Olympics: Only raised by a couple of MPs representing the Liberal Democrats and the DUP, it remains an unlikely scenario.
Universities and education: The relationship between universities, schools and China was raised once again, with some MPs calling for an audit.
Joint economic trade commission and the economic and financial dialogue: Currently frozen, MPs heaped pressure on the Government to keep them so.
It’s worth looking at the six demands put forward by Labour’s Shadow FCDO Minister Stephen Kinnock:
Stephen Kinnock @SKinnock.@UKParliament has declared the Chinese govt's persecution of the Uyghur to be a genocide. I set out why Labour supports this decision&why UK govt, as a signatory to 1948 Genocide Convention, is legally obliged to take steps to prevent further atrocities&punish those responsible https://t.co/C2GMIXLTnW
So what does this vote mean? This was a non-binding motion (like Canada and the Netherland’s when they did the same), which means the Government does not have to act on it. In this sense, the BBD allowed both sides to save face; the Government could claim that it was running a one-line whip (meaning MPs did not have to turn up) on a Thursday afternoon when Parliament was empty anyway, while the MPs secured this result could rightfully claim that they had won a historic victory with unanimous support in the House.
One key question now is will this nuance be read and understood by Chinese officials on the ground in London and back in Beijing? Early indications did not point to this being likely. The former released a lengthy statement:
Embassy Spokesperson: A handful of British MPs cooked up this motion on Xinjiang in disregard of facts and common sense with a view to discrediting and attacking China. This move gravely violates international law and the basic norms governing international relations and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs. The Chinese side firmly opposes this and expresses its strong condemnation. I want to emphasize the following:
First, the so-called “genocide” against Uygurs in Xinjiang is a flat-out lie which violates international law. The term “genocide”, which is universally believed to be a severe international crime, is clearly defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted at the UN General Assembly in December 1948. Therefore, a finding of genocide must result from the application of authoritative, stern and inflexible procedural rules. It must survive a strict scrutiny of the facts and withstand the test of time. No country, organization, or individual is qualified or entitled to determine arbitrarily that another country has committed “genocide”. In international relations, no country should use this accusation in a political game of rumor-mongering and malicious manipulation.
The unwarranted accusation by a handful of British MPs that there is “genocide” in Xinjiang is the most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people, and a gross breach of international law and the basic norms governing international relations.
Second, the so-called “genocide” is an outrageous smear against the development achievements of Xinjiang and China’s Xinjiang-related policies. The Xinjiang-related issues are in nature counter-violent terrorism, de-radicalisation and anti-separatism, and they bear on China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security. The Chinese Government is earnestly implementing the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, drawing lessons from similar actions of other countries and carrying out de-radicalisation work in accordance with law. All these are completely in line with the principles and spirit of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of people of all ethnic groups, there has been no violent terrorist case in Xinjiang for over four years in a run. The people in Xinjiang are enjoying social security and stability, steady economic development and secure and happy life. The population of Uygurs in Xinjiang has kept growing in recent years. From 2010 to 2018, the Uygur population in Xinjiang increased from 10.1715 million to 12.7184 million. This increase of 25.04% is not only higher than the growth rate of the whole population in Xinjiang (13.99%). It is also much higher than the growth rate of Han ethnic group (2%). People of all ethnic groups in the region fully enjoy the rights to life and development. The spoken and written languages, traditional cultures and customs of all ethnic groups are well protected and carried forward. It is a fact that there is no “genocide” in Xinjiang and China has never committed the so-called “crimes against humanity”. The “genocide” smear campaign against Xinjiang is sheer political manipulation in the name of human rights.
Third, China strongly opposes the UK’s blatant interference in China’s internal affairs. China remains unwavering in its determination to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests. For those British MPs making groundless accusation of “genocide” against Xinjiang, it is rather the grave domestic violation of human rights here in the UK that calls for deep reflection and rectification. A few days ago, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent strongly condemned the report by the UK’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, pointing out that the report distorted and falsified the historical and current facts of racism in the UK. Whitewashing domestic human rights issues while at the same time staging human rights farces concerning other countries smack of sheer hypocrisy and double standards.
We urge the UK side to recognize the development of Xinjiang, have a right understanding on Xinjiang-related issues, take concrete measures to respect China’s core interests and major concerns and immediately right its wrong moves.
Then Global Times ran a piece rubbishing the debate by stating:
these politicians blindly follow the anti-China forces led by the US to defame China to gain political capital, pushing China-UK relations to a low.
Xu Guixiang, the deputy director-general of the Communist Party’s publicity department in Xinjiang, said:
The motion adopted by the British side was totally groundless. The decision was made on the basis of remarks by some politicians, some so-called academic institutes, some so-called experts and scholars and some so-called witnesses.
In Westminster, this pressures the Government to go further with their action on China. This could take the form of further sanctions, stronger calls for Western alliances against China, or strengthening of supply chain legislation. On a geopolitical front, what are the longer term repercussions for Britain’s ability to work with its global partners to challenge, compete or collaborate on issues such as the Belt and Road Initiative or Taiwan? What does this do to the UN’s legitimacy? On the former, and seemingly unnoticed by the majority of SW1, President Xi Jinping made a significant speech days earlier setting out China’s foreign policy and touching both issues, in which he said:
We need to safeguard the UN-centered international system, preserve the international order underpinned by international law, and uphold the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core. World affairs should be handled through extensive consultation, and the future of the world should be decided by all countries working together. We must not let the rules set by one or a few countries be imposed on others, or allow unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world. What we need in today's world is justice, not hegemony. Big countries should behave in a manner befitting their status and with a greater sense of responsibility.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it all the more clear to people around the world that we must reject the cold-war and zero-sum mentality and oppose a new "Cold War" and ideological confrontation in whatever forms. In state-to-state relations, the principles of equality, mutual respect and mutual trust must be put front and center. Bossing others around or meddling in others' internal affairs would not get one any support. We must advocate peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, which are common values of humanity, and encourage exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations to promote the progress of human civilization.
If we see a domino-effect of Western countries declaring genocide independent of the UN, will this have any meaningful impact in Beijing?
Finally, spare a thought for the Foreign Office and British Embassy staff in China. Already doing an extremely difficult job, they now have to deal with the fallout of this debate a day after the FCDO announced that it would be cutting Official Development Assistance for programme delivery in China by 95% to £0.9m.
Foreign Aid cut
"Today's announcement is a tragic blow for many of the world's most marginalised people the UK once supported, and for the UK's reputation as a trusted development partner. The government has not even spared countries ravaged by humanitarian crisis, disease, war and poverty."
These were the words of over 200 charities following a Foreign Office statement mapping out how the Department planned to cut the UK’s Foreign Aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of total national income - a reduction of around £4bn.
In his statement to the house, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the new direction of Foreign Aid:
Marks a strategic shift, putting our aid budget to work alongside our diplomatic network, our science and technology expertise and our economic partnerships in tackling global challenges. We will focus on core HMG priorities for poverty reduction, including getting more girls into school, providing urgent humanitarian support to those who need it most, and tackling global threats like climate change, COVID recovery and other international health priorities. Based on OECD data for 2020, the UK will be the third largest donor within the G7 as a percentage of GNI.
In China, I have reduced FCDO’s ODA for programme delivery by 95% to £0.9m (with additional ODA in this year only to meet the contractual exit costs of former programmes). The remaining £900,000 will fund programmes on open societies and human rights.
The Department also produced a table to show the thematic allocation of the new funding:
While much of the coverage has focussed on the instant consequences that cutting aid will have on women’s education or conflict resolution, some have focussed on the gift this has presented China. Given the Government discussed the need to strategically challenge China in the Integrated Review, particularly on matters such as the BRI, the move has been viewed as short sighted.
The Guardian notes:
The near-universal view is that Johnson could have got away with a fall in the absolute size of the aid programme in 2020 due to the contraction in the size of the Covid-ravaged British economy, but there was no need to take the chancellor’s advice and impose a further cut in 2021 by reducing the statutory aid target from 0.7% to 0.5%. “All governments makes mistakes,” says the former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, “but I have rarely seen such a colossal act of self-harm as by this government. For 1% of the cost of Covid borrowing they are systematically dismantling one of the great acknowledged assets of soft power and British leadership in the world – not just by making these cuts but undermining the British international development leadership of British universities, thinktanks and policymakers.”
The sudden drop has left researchers and charities scrambling to pay contractors and work out which projects can be salvaged. It reinforces the appeal of the “Chinese model for development support,” said Ranil Dissanayake, policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. Compared to the kind of charitable support African countries get from many Western donors, China is much clearer about what’s in it for them when they invest, he explained. “That also means from the recipient perspective, it’s more predictable.”
On Monday, IPAC co-founder Baroness Kennedy secured a Private Notice Question (which gives a member of the House of Lords the opportunity to ask a topical question to the government on any sitting day) on “what assessment [the Government] have made of reports that pro-democracy campaigners have been sentenced in Hong Kong for participating in pro-democracy protests.”
What followed was another gruelling session for the Government. The BN(O) scheme has been a success in winning political capital for taking action over Beijing’s heavy-handling of Hong Kong. However, the feeling generally across both Houses appears to be that, while accepting the Government is in a difficult position, it is not doing enough to punish key Hong Kong and CCP officials involved. Inputs have been edited for brevity, and the whole transcript can be viewed here.
Lord Ahmed, Minister of State for the FCDO
My Lords, we are clear that the Hong Kong authorities’ decision to target leading pro-democracy figures for prosecution is unacceptable and must stop. The right to peaceful protest is fundamental to Hong Kong’s way of life, protected in both the joint declaration and the Basic Law, and it should be upheld. We shall continue to raise our concerns with the Chinese and Hong Kong Governments and bring together our international partners to stand up for the people of Hong Kong.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his continued efforts in this regard, but is he aware of the letter sent last week by the last Governor of Hong Kong, the noble Lord, Lord Patten, and signed by 100 parliamentarians from both Houses, including the shadowForeign Secretary Lisa Nandy and myself? We urged the Government to impose Magnitsky sanctions on officials in Beijing and Hong Kong for the grave and repeated breaches of the Sino-British joint declaration and the serious human rights violations committed in Hong Kong. In the light of the sentencing of some of the most prominent moderate, mainstream, internationally respected and senior pro-democracy campaigners, is it not time to impose Magnitsky sanctions?
My Lords, these are friends and allies who have been locked up, people we all know. The Foreign Secretary has stated that Beijing is now in permanent breach of the Sino-British joint declaration, so I urge the Government to stop holding back on imposing sanctions. Will the Minister assure us that the human rights crisis in Hong Kong will be on the G7 agenda so that collective action can be taken?
Lord Alton (IPAC)
My Lords, as a patron of Hong Kong Watch and an officer of the All-Party Group on Hong Kong, I personally know Martin Lee, the father of Hong Kong democracy, Margaret Ng, a formidable lawyer, and Jimmy Lai, a champion of free speech and a full holder of a UK passport. Does the Minister agree they deserve better than a medieval star chamber and a Stalinist show trial? Is the debasement of law by puppets and quislings not best met by calling out the Chinese Communist Party at the next meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, focusing on, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, the CCP’s lawbreaking and treaty-breaking, and its sentencing, imprisonment and detention in psychiatric institutions of women and men whose values we share?
My Lords, while we all condemn the incarceration of democratic activists in Hong Kong, there is very little we can do to help them. Economic or cultural sanctions can be only a token of disapproval. Does the Minister agree that it would add weight to our criticism if we were more even-handed in criticising gross human rights abuse wherever it occurs, even in so-called friendly countries, such as Saudi Arabia?
Five Eyes, five hundred columns
Also on Monday, British media reported on comments made by Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister. Mahuta was speaking on the topic of the Five Eyes, an intelligence sharing network between Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Asked about the group moving to increase pressure on China, she replied:
“It’s a matter that we have raised with Five Eyes partners, that we are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship, that we would much rather prefer looking for multilateral opportunities to express our interests on a number of issues.”
Her reasoning, she explained, was because:
“New Zealand has been very clear, certainly in this term since we’ve held the portfolio, not to invoke the Five Eyes as the first point of contact on messaging out on a range of issues.”
“They really exist outside of the remit of the Five Eyes. We don’t favour that type of approach and have expressed that to Five Eyes partners.”
This explanation didn’t cut it for Fleet Street. ‘Beijing divides and rules: New Zealand backs out of 'Five Eyes' intelligence network's 'China-watch' over fears it will hit country's trade partnership’, the Daily Mail told its readers. The Times ran ‘Five Eyes on China cut to four as New Zealand puts trade first’ and then a Thunderer the next day ‘New Zealand’s response to China abuse is spineless’:
The truth is that New Zealand’s government has long been guilty of a supine attitude towards China. Last month, 14 nations raised concerns about Beijing’s apparent meddling in the World Health Organisation’s investigation into the origins of the pandemic. New Zealand declined to put its name to the communiqué. In January, it failed to sign a statement from the other Five Eyes countries condemning the arrests of pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong. When the offices of Anne-Marie Brady, a New Zealand academic and expert on Chinese propaganda, were burgled in 2018, the investigation got nowhere; her testimony to a parliamentary inquiry was cancelled on dubious procedural grounds.
The Telegraph topped it up with a Con Coughlin special ‘Jacinda Ardern is now the West’s woke weak link’:
What is not in doubt is that, by seeking closer ties with Beijing, Ms Ardern risks isolating her country from allies like neighbouring Australia, whose own trading relationship with Beijing has suffered heavily because of Canberra’s criticism of China’s attempts to cover up the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as its assault on Hong Kong.
We live in an age when, as US President Joe Biden has warned, countries that value democracy need to work together to counter the threat posed by authoritarian regimes like China. By choosing Beijing at the expense of her Five Eyes allies, Ms Ardern risks eroding New Zealand’s credibility on the global political map.
What makes these attacks on New Zealand tedious is that they show a clear misunderstanding of what the Five Eyes actually is, and then use that ill-informed assumption as a segue in to bashing the country. The Five Eyes is an intelligence sharing network. It is not a commercial or policy-formulating alliance and to expect it to behave is so laughable. Each country has a unique link and relationship to China - for New Zealand to therefore have a different policy view than the other four is not surprising.
Reporting on this level leads to badly informed conversations and political stances, as witnessed in the BBD on Thursday when Bob Seely MP (IPAC) said:
A quarter of our British supply chain is dominated by China. The problem is that if we go further down that route, we end up like New Zealand, in a hell of an ethical mess, with a Prime Minister who virtue-signals while crudely sucking up to China and backing out of the Five Eyes agreement, which is an appallingly short-sighted thing to be doing.
It also dumbs down the conversation at a time when we need more balanced, researched and nuanced reporting.
The Telegraph @Telegraph🔴 New Zealand has broken with its “Five Eyes” intelligence partners, including the UK, as it pursues a closer alliance with China, its largest trading partner https://t.co/riTNagK9Zl
Odds and ends
Another busy week for Caroline Wilson, the UK’s Ambassador in Beijing. Hot off the back of presenting her credentials to President Xi Jinping last week, she also met State Councillor Wang Yi. No prizes for guessing which topics were covered under the ‘areas of disagreement’ category.
Boris Johnson will use the Queen’s Speech on May 11 to announce a bill to counter hostile states, including a foreign agent registration scheme which will require all individuals working on behalf of foreign governments in Britain to register their presence. Failure to do so would be a criminal offence. The move is in part aimed at China. (The Times)
Jeremy Fleming, GCHQ’s director general, told an audience that key technology is vital to the UK’s security and prosperity is under threat from hostile states such as China. (The Times)
Alan Mak, the first British person of ethnic Chinese origin to be elected to the House of Commons, has also become the first British MP of ethnic Chinese origin to enter government. (The New Statesman)
President Xi attended the commissioning of the naval vessels, signalling ‘China’s determination to manage S.China Sea’. (Global Times)
Happy first birthday yesterday to the China Research Group - sanctioned before turning 365 days old.
When asked by Shadow DUP Spokesperson for Human Rights) and for Health Jim Shannon “how much and what proportion of the UK's national debt is owed to Chinese financial institutions,” John Glen, Minister of State in the Treasury, replied:
Most of the Government’s debt is in the form of publicly traded bonds (‘gilts’). The most recent data release by the Office for National Statistics indicates that, at the end of 2020, overseas investors held £708 billion of gilts, a minority of the total stock of outstanding gilts (28%). These data are not broken down by country.
Notable to see that these data are not detailed at that level.
HSBC, ARIA, solar
It’s been a punishing two years for companies operating between the UK and China. Every week seems to bring about a new geopolitical challenge. be it a Select Committee grilling, threat of boycott from one Government, or sanctions on officials from both sides. Deriving the bulk of its revenue from Asia, HSBC has been particularly hard hit by the deterioration of the UK-China relationship.
In a long interview with the Financial Times, Chief Executive of the London-based bank Noel Quinn confirmed the institution would be sticking to its game plan in Asia, despite pressures from analysts and politicians.
“We’re not a political organisation and we don’t want to be,” he said, adding that HSBC supports all human rights and conventions. “We operate in 60 countries around the world and we’re a guest in most . . . I don’t look at it from a nation state perspective. I look at it from a customer-by-customer perspective.”
“I do believe there’s still a place for an international bank, one headquartered in London, bridging east and west,” he said. “My evidence is my clients. Even in a year of low growth, geopolitical tensions, a slow economic environment, we saw an increase of 8 per cent in the international activity” of commercial customers.
Herein lies the crux of it, and confirms a point we have raised multiple times over the last year - a handful of angry MPs does not equate to a market of over one billion potential customers. While British MPs have grilled the bank at a Select Committee hearing and criticised it liberally in Parliament, none have offered a meaningful view as to how the firm could ‘do the right thing’ for the UK consumer.
Saying HSBC is stuck between a rock and a hard place simply isn’t true; the bank is stuck between a British sponge and Chinese granite, with the former far more willing to forgive than the latter.
Scrutiny continues of the Government’s top secret Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA), which will have £800 million of government funding to splurge on a variety of companies. Because ARIA will not need to declare where the funding is going, and looks to be immune to Freedom of Information requests, MPs seem particularly keen to make sure this doesn’t end up in the pockets of ethically naughty firms. Both the SNP and Labour shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Ministers raised this concern in Parliament.
Stephen Flynn of the SNP said:
Those concerns are just and appropriate, and I do not think that any of us wants to be under any illusion about whether ARIA might have cause to have or seek investment in technologies that may contravene human rights. It is an incredibly serious topic.
We can see from the Bill the flexibility and freedom that ARIA will have. We hear from the Government that they want it to be agile and nimble, and we know that it will not have the level of scrutiny and transparency that perhaps it should—certainly in our view. I would welcome an incredibly serious tone from the Minister and a cast-iron assurance that human rights will not be contravened in any way, shape or form by ARIA and its processes.
This was supported by Labour’s Chi Onwurah:
I second the concerns raised by the SNP spokesperson. If ARIA commissioned research, for example, that was collaborative between the UK and a Chinese tech company involved in the Uyghur human rights abuses, which are so extreme, how would we know about it and what action could be taken?
A scenario overlooked in this hypothetical situation is if ARIA invests in a company now that later goes on to be viewed as unethical or contravene human rights. For example, should ARIA invest in cutting edge technology in solar power, it may well end up being caught in a supply chain leading back to Xinjiang. On that note…
Something that caught our eye and has us pondering; this week, the British Government enshrined a new target in law to slash emissions by 78% by 2035:
In line with the recommendation from the independent Climate Change Committee, this sixth Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a 5-year period from 2033 to 2037, taking the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching net zero by 2050. The Carbon Budget will ensure Britain remains on track to end its contribution to climate change while remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C.
For the first time, this Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions – an important part of the government’s decarbonisation efforts that will allow for these emissions to be accounted for consistently.
This comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the opening session of the US Leaders’ Summit on Climate, hosted by President Biden on Earth Day (22 April). The Prime Minister will urge countries to raise ambition on tackling climate change and join the UK in setting stretching targets for reducing emissions by 2030 to align with net zero.
This is worth noting for a variety of reasons, but particularly because of the current conundrum many Governments in the West are facing; they want to go green, but they need to source their goods from China. As a recent Foreign Affairs piece noted:
Policymakers in the United States have hoped to compartmentalize climate change as a challenge on which Beijing and Washington can meaningfully cooperate, even as the two countries compete elsewhere. John Kerry, the United States’ senior climate diplomat, has insisted that climate change is a “standalone issue” in U.S.-Chinese relations. Yet Beijing does not see it that way.
After U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared in late January that Washington intended to “pursue the climate agenda” with China while simultaneously putting pressure on Beijing regarding human rights and other contentious policy issues, Zhao Lijian, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, warned the Biden administration that cooperation on climate change “is closely linked with bilateral relations as a whole.” In other words, China will not compartmentalize climate cooperation; its participation in efforts to slow global warming will be contingent on the positions and actions that its foreign interlocutors take in other areas.
Especially difficult for these Governments is Xinjiang. This is because of, as Politico explains:
Xinjiang’s outsized role in the production of polysilicon, a material used to make photovoltaic (PV) cells.
“Nearly every silicon-based solar module — at least 95 percent of the market — is likely to have some Xinjiang silicon in,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BloombergNEF.
In 2016, only 9% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon came from Xinjiang. But by 2020 it provided about 45% of the world’s supply, according to industry analyst Johannes Bernreuter.
While there has been significantly increased Parliamentary interest in supply chains in Xinjiang, little scrutiny so far has gone into the Western companies sourcing their products necessary for solar power from the region. It will be interesting to see what preparations companies involved in this sector are making for this eventuality, or if ARIA ever ends up investing here.
Odds and ends
English pub chain Helen’s to IPO as enormous offline social network. (SupChina)
Baker & Baker, a re-branded UK bakery business, is targeting further international expansion with China a key area of focus. (JustFood.com)
17 jobs axed at Sheffield implant firm due to downturn in trade with China (The Star)
Iceland has joined the least trendy-named group your writer has come across in a while. On Tuesday, the Department for Defence announced the country’s inclusion in JEF, the Joint Expeditionary Force.
This is a UK-led coalition of ten countries who share a commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law as well as a long history of operating together. We also share a determination to global and regional peace and maintaining the security of northern Europe.
The JEF is able to operate wherever in the world any two of its members choose to deploy together. Our particular focus is on the High North, the North Atlantic and the Baltic regions, where the JEF can complement national as well as NATO’s deterrence posture in the region. It is designed to be as flexible as possible and has utility across a broad spectrum of operational activities, including humanitarian assistance and Defence diplomacy.
This follows a recent spike in interest concerning China’s role in the region.
New polling maps British attitudes to China
The ever-impressive British Foreign Policy Group (BFPG) has released a new report in partnership with polling firm Opinium on “the complex, evolving nature of UK public opinion on foreign affairs”. Given many readers have an interest in this particular area, the results are worth studying.
It found that:
The UK adult population can be divided into four distinct foreign policy tribes – The Humanitarians, The Globalists, The Patriots and The Isolationists.
The Humanitarians are disproportionately likely to live in London or the South of England more generally, or the Midlands – likely concentrated within Birmingham, and are less concentrated in Wales. They are predominantly younger in age, comprising both white- and blue-collar workers, with their age being the primary defining characteristic in shaping their preference for a valuesdriven foreign policy. They are also more likely to be women. There is a strong relationship with both Remain in the EU referendum and support for the Labour Party, with 69% of all LabourRemain voters falling into the Humanitarians tribe. Half of Liberal Democratic-Remain voters are also members of this tribe, as are just over a fifth (21%) of Conservative-Remain voters. This tribe are more likely to adopt internationalist than patriotic identities, and 40% of this tribe are readers of The Guardian newspaper.
The Globalists are much more geographically dispersed around the UK, although they are somewhat more concentrated in London and Scotland, and less concentrated in the Midlands. They are principally defined by their professional and ‘white-collar’ status, bringing together both older and younger members. They tend to assume both internationalist and patriotic identities and disproportionately tend to be men. The most popular newspaper among this group is The Times. They are primarily constituted by Conservative-Remain voters, of whom 51% reside in this group, with the second-largest cohort represented by Liberal Democrat-Remain voters, of whom 28% fall into this tribe.
The geographical distribution of The Patriots brings together a number of different groups. Its members are disproportionately likely to reside in Wales, and less likely on average to live in London. This group is also primarily defined by its age – bringing together older citizens in both the professional and more blue-collar occupations. They are disproportionately White British men and are most likely to be readers of the Daily Mail. Around half (48%) of Conservative-Leave voters belong in this group, and are the largest single constituency, followed by Leave voters affiliated with smaller parties or who do not vote, and just over a fifth of Labour-Leave voters (22%). They are more likely to adopt patriotic rather than internationalist identities, with 39% identifying only as ‘patriots’.
The Britons who fall into the Isolationists tribe are most concentrated in the North of England and least concentrated in London. But they are also over-represented in Scotland – emphasising the degree of mythology underpinning the concept of a homogeneously progressive, internationalist vision for an independent Scotland. The defining characteristic of this group is their socio-economic status – bringing together ‘blue-collar’ workers from both younger and older age groups. They are disproportionately female and school-leavers, and 43% do not read newspapers. A higher proportion of Labour-Leave voters are to be found within this tribe (43%) than Conservative-Leave voters (32%), but the larger size of the Conservative-Leave cohort – in part, due to the exodus of Leave voters from the Labour Party – means that Conservative-Leave voters are more numerous. They tend to reject both patriotic and international identities.
The two largest foreign policy tribes within the UK – The Humanitarians and The Isolationists – are also the most diametrically opposed in their foreign policy preferences, underscoring the volatility and emotional nature of the public debate over foreign policy.
Focusing on tribal party politics fails to capture the breadth of public opinion and the political realignment that has emerged around Brexit identities. In both the Conservative party and the Labour party, Leave and Remain voters continue to co-exist and although their foreign policy preferences sometimes align, they also often represent the extremities of public divide over foreign policy.
However, alongside this gravitational ‘pulling apart’ there is a strong foundation of commonality among the British public, and this ‘centre ground’ of British attitudes is of significant importance. These two dynamics operate simultaneously to pose both obstacles and opportunities to building public consent for the UK’s foreign policy agenda.
Moving forwards, building public consent and a sense of shared purpose and values within the UK’s foreign policy will be essential to bridging the polarisation that has gripped the UK in recent years.
With particular relation to China, the report notes:
The Globalists tribe are the most likely to trust China (30%), followed by The Isolationists (23%) and The Humanitarians (21%). Britons in The Patriots (19%) are the least likely to trust China, with 55% having a ‘high level’ of distrust of China.
The Humanitarians tribe is the most supportive of a constructive, values-driven approach to China, and is therefore simultaneously the most likely to support cooperation with China on shared global challenges (56%) and to support challenging China on its human rights record (56%). They are also the most likely to support Chinese students attending UK universities (44%) and to support research collaboration with China (39%). Britons in the Globalists tribe are the next-most-supportive of a balanced level of engagement with China, and are notable for being the most supportive of economic engagement with China (29%).
Britons in the Patriots (22%) and Isolationists (25%) tribes are significantly more inclined to oppose the UK having any relationship with China than those in the Globalists (11%) and Humanitarians (5%) tribes.
Congratulations to the Shannon Free Zone, which was credited as being the driving force behind the PRC’s embrace of freeports this week in the House of Commons. Bernard Jenkin, chair of the Liaison Committee, said:
It is worth mentioning that the Shannon freeport zone was regarded as such a success that it was imitated and adopted by China, which now has a freeport zone programme that it regards as an important enhancement of its economic competitiveness.
What we learned from this week
How much support does the Chinese Communist Party really have? Dexter Tiff Roberts, Atlantic Council
To win hearts in the Indo-Pacific, China must end its combative diplomacy. Yu Jie, South China Morning Post
Chinese Students Are Not a Fifth Column. Remco Zwetsloot and Zachary Arnold, Foreign Policy