Relations with China: Xi Jinping Presidency — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:42 pm on 16th March 2023.

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Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 2:42 pm, 16th March 2023

China remains, as identified in the original integrated review, the biggest long-term state threat to the UK’s economic security. No one is disputing that. What the refresh seeks to do is build a strategy around that. Page 30 of the refresh says:

“China under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses an epoch-defining and systemic challenge with implications for almost every area of government policy and the everyday lives of British people.”

That is comprehensive, and it is very clear that the refresh is seeking to build a strategy around that analysis.

Furthermore, we know that the challenge includes China using its economic power to coerce countries with which it disagrees. Its aggressive stance in the South China sea and the Taiwan strait threatens to bring danger, disorder and division. In other words, it threatens to create an international order favourable to authoritarianism. We will work closely with others to push back against any attempts by the Chinese Communist party to coerce or threaten other countries. That is a great deal of what AUKUS is seeking to do, as we all saw earlier this week.

We have already taken robust action to protect UK interests and values since the last integrated review. That includes new powers to protect our critical industries under the National Security and Investment Act 2021; bolstering the security of our 5G network through the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act 2022; and training more than 170 civil servants in Mandarin. Hon. Members have mentioned Confucius Institutes; clearly, the Home Office and the Security Minister are looking at them in great detail.

The integrated review refresh takes this approach further. We will double funding for Chinese expertise and capacities in Government so that we have more Mandarin speakers and China experts. That will boost skills and knowledge for Government staff on China, including on economic and military policy, as well as Mandarin language skills. We would all welcome that.

Let me dwell on Xinjiang. The hon. Member for Strangford made a very good case and laid out the horrors we have seen there, and I am thankful to him for that. The UK has led international efforts to hold China to account for that through the United Nations and our sanctions regime. We were the first country to step up to lead a joint statement on China’s human rights record in Xinjiang at the United Nations. Since that first statement in 2019, we have worked tirelessly to broaden the network of countries speaking out. Most recently, on 31 October, the UK played a leading role in securing the support of a record 50 countries for a joint statement on China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang. We have also implemented measures to ensure that UK organisations are not complicit in these violations through their supply chains. We will continue to call out China and put pressure on it to change.