I like and admire our Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly. He’s a good man and a great diplomat.
And we are making progress on China, but on the eve of his trip to Beijing, there are still serious questions to be asked.
We need to be more coherent and we need to be more robust.
The great ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said that defence against defeat came from knowing both oneself and one’s adversaries. We need to learn that.
Looking at what the current Chinese Government says about the West, it is clear that they seek not to live in harmony, but to dominate – and that’s because freedom anywhere is a threat to one-party Communists everywhere.
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China’s policies and actions seek to undercut our industries and to make us economically dependent. They want to break the link between Europe and the US, and they are succeeding. They want to lock up British citizens in Hong Kong without us having the courage to do or say anything beyond a mild bit of concern.
Yes, of course, we need to engage, no one serious says otherwise, but for the Foreign Office to argue that anyone who questions the current strategy simply wants to avoid dealing with China is nonsense.
We need to deal with China whilst recognising the threat that it poses. But we need to do this whilst defending our values, strategic interests and partnerships.
Above all, we need as a matter of urgency to lessen our economic dependency on China and to diversify our supply chains. Every year we fail to do this makes us and other Western nations more dependent on Beijing’s Communist dictators.
The 21st Century risks seeing two visions for the future of humanity.
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The first is the “Western” liberal model of a law-governed society, universal rights and Government under law. The second is the new authoritarian model championed by China where freedoms are aggressively curtailed, politicians and party machines are above the law and where surveillance, aided by big data and Artificial Intelligence, leads science and humanity to a darker future.
Those who govern us need to wake up to this reality and stop clinging to a future that did not materialise.
We, and other Western nations, need to negotiate a new future with Beijing that defends our economic, ethical and political values.
I wish James well in achieving it.
Bob Seely is the Conservative Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight.
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