China: UK policy — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:37 pm on 7th May 2019.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 5:37 pm, 7th May 2019

The Minister will get his chance to speak in a minute.

Why are the other members of Five Eyes now saying that, if we give such a contract, they will be reluctant to share security information with us? That is extremely concerning. Over the weekend, we learned that the Cabinet Secretary is leading his own mission to Beijing, with 15 permanent secretaries. That is a huge mission to take to Beijing. I hope the Minister will tell us whether he is in agreement with the Cabinet Secretary that we need long-term engagement, or whether he thinks, like the former Defence Secretary, that we need to be much more cautious. What precisely is the Government’s position?

The right hon. Member for West Dorset took a surprisingly relativist view. I thought that we were all western liberal democrats and that, as a western liberal democrat, it was completely respectable to stand up for those values, promote them and try to get other people in other countries to share and adopt them. I would point out two things to him. First, the Chinese have signed up to quite a lot of the big United Nations international treaties that were written in that framework. They did not have to sign them; they chose to sign them. Therefore, when discussing human rights in China, Myanmar or anywhere else, it is reasonable to hold other members of the Security Council to those standards.

Secondly, of course, it is true that we cannot force China to change and that we might be alarmed by what is going on in Washington. However, the best way to resolve such potential conflicts between large countries is to uphold the international rules-based order. That is the way to resolve such difficulties. Another question for the Minister, therefore, is about where the Government stand on the trade dispute between China and the USA, because that is a sort of proxy for future disputes and conflicts.

I also ask the Minister, as the Foreign Affairs Committee did, exactly what the Government’s position is on the South China sea problem, and how they see us moving forward. It is right to uphold the international law of the sea, and we should be doing that, but I want to know what the Government see as their legal base and what their intention is.

The belt and road initiative has an upside, as my hon. Friend Faisal Rashid said, but it has problems as well. Where do the Government stand? Are they with Christine Lagarde? Does the Minister agree that China has problems with environmental standards and with how it puts a lot of debt on to other countries in pursuit of the initiative? If he is worried, what are the Government going to do about it?

Fiona Bruce and my hon. Friend Yasmin Qureshi were absolutely right to raise human rights issues. To put another question to the Government, what will they do about the undermining of the civil rights of people in Hong Kong, where the Government have a legal position?

I am afraid that my conclusion is that we need a policy—China is a big, important country—so let us hear from the Minister what it is.