In a move attracting both anticipation and critique, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has embarked on his first visit to China in five years. The visit highlights the need of direct communication to avoid misconceptions in the context of tense UK-China ties. Which have lasted since 2018. So, James Cleverly begins China talks as UK MPs criticise approach.
Cleverly’s visit comes at a time when the UK government’s China strategy is under scrutiny. The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has voiced worry about the conduct of the Chinese Communist Party. Notably its intimidation strategies in Hong Kong, and has encouraged the administration to present a more cogent and open stance toward China.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. ho is among MPs sanctioned by China, has termed the UK’s China policy as “Project Kowtow,” alleging it prioritizes economic gains over principles. Labour’s David Lammy echoes similar sentiments, calling for tangible diplomatic progress, such as lifting Chinese sanctions on British MPs.
On the diplomatic agenda, Cleverly aims to discuss human rights issues in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. In relation to the present Ukraine conflict, he also intends to implore China to put pressure on Russia. The Foreign Secretary is scheduled to meet China’s Vice President Han Zheng and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
In his Mansion House speech, Cleverly highlighted three pillars guiding his visit: safeguarding national security, cooperating with allies, and direct engagement with China for stability. This aligns with the government’s actions to block risky Chinese investments and strengthen the National Security Act.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged the end of the “golden era” of UK-China relations but emphasized its ongoing significance. China’s Foreign Ministry expressed hopes for respectful discussions to enhance Sino-British ties during Cleverly’s visit.
As Cleverly’s visit unfolds, it remains to be seen whether it will quell the domestic criticism or herald a new phase in UK-China relations. With a range of complex issues on the table, both nations tread cautiously, aware that the stakes are high.