China: Friend, Foe, or Both?

Radix_China Paper July 2020_image

Britain has displayed a “uncritical fascination” and “naïve optimism” with regards to China, according to a new report for RADIX, the radical centre think tank, published today. 

In China: Friend, Foe or Both?, author Charlie du Cane, who has spent much of the past fifteen years living and working in Greater China, concludes that Britain need to create a new strategic framework for dealing with China founded on three pillars: standing up to China’s increased assertiveness; co-operation on areas of mutual interest; and improved understanding of the Chinese pysche.

Drawing on the findings of a RADIX webinar held on 4th June – addressed by China and foreign policy experts including MPs Stephen Kinnock and Tom Tugendhat, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Isabel Hilton, CEO of ChinaDialogue – du Cane argues:

“The naïve optimism of the “Golden Era” in Anglo-Chinese relations needs to give way to something more measured, recognising that we may have let them in too far to key national infrastructure.

“The UK has responsibilities as regards Hong Kong but little power…  That said, the UK remains a significant player on the world stage … China cannot easily shrug off a UK that increasingly aligns itself with Western Allies in its stance.  

“We must also recognise that China has become huge and integral part of the global economy and a step change in China’s development has meant that UK businesses are rapidly gaining market share there.”

Within this context du Cane calls for:

  • The UK Government to set out a proper strategic framework for how and to what extent Chinese entities can invest in UK infrastructure, universities and companies, with a view to protecting the international rules-based system;
  • Cooperation plans with China on issues of mutual concern within the framework of international institutions such as the UN, WTO and AIIB;
  • Access to UK universities for Chinese undergraduates with great caution exercised with respect to those seeking to undertake further studies; and
  • Greater education about China and a massive expansion in the teaching of Mandarin throughout UK schools, colleges and workplaces.

“The assumption that holding China close would yield a China that would play by the global rules of engagement has proved wide of the mark.  We must now avoid making similar mistakes in the opposite direction, simply because of our continued lack of understanding of Chinese culture, its people and the degree of interconnectedness that we already find ourselves in.  “We hope that RADIX’S work in this area will help improve the quality of our public debate in respect of this most important geopolitical issue of our times.”

RADIX co-founder, Joe Zammit-Lucia,

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