China fury: Fury as Boris gears up to kickstart trade talks with dangerous Beijing

China is the 'world's biggest imperial power' says Nile Gardiner

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Trade meetings were held annually between the UK and China until 2018 when bilateral trade negotiations deteriorated over Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. However, Boris Johnson is reportedly ready to kickstart negotiations with the country post-Brexit.

Following Brexit, the UK is free to set trade on its own terms and pursue economic opportunities with other nations.

However, Boris Johnson’s Government has previously insisted it has no plans to sign a free trade deal with China and has indicated it won’t do a deal with countries that don’t share its democratic values.

Now, with the UK economy reeling, recent revelations suggest the Prime Minister has changed his stance on China and is personally pushing for trade talks to restart, Politico reports.

Government officials are said to be in discussions about holding a UK-China joint economic and trade committee (JETCO) meeting later this year. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also reportedly asked officials to bring back the UK-China trade summit, which hasn’t been held since 2019.

China – the world’s second largest economy – could bring increased investment into the country, opportunities for exporters and lucrative trade deals that tout import prices. However, critics argue it is not enough to risk potential security implications with a nation that has such a chequered past.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory leader, told “The Government would be wrong to re-start trade talks with China. The charge-sheet against China is long”.

He listed a number of reported human rights violations associated with the country including “genocide, slave labour and sterilisation of the Uyghur people; persecution of religious minorities; forced labour camps in Tibet; arrests of peaceful pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong; attacks on Indian soldiers; and daily military incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone”.

He urged the government to rethink its plans, by saying: “We cannot offer tough rhetoric on the importance of defending human rights while also cosying up to a country that commits genocide against its own people.”

MP Sarah Olney also opposes the idea, writing on Twitter: “We must not stay silent”

“Conservative Ministers are sending a dangerous signal to Beijing that they can get away with whatever they want. Rather than hold new trade talks, the UK must ban imports from Xinjiang & recognise the genocide taking place there.”

Earlier this month, David Davis, a former Cabinet Minister, highlighted “shocking revelations” of the UK using Chinese surveillance cameras linked to the repression of Uighurs.

He wrote on Twitter: “Technology so closely linked to the repression of Uighurs should not be being used in the UK. The widespread use of Hikvision and Dahua CCTV in the UK poses serious rights and security risks.”

Ties between London and Beijing seemed to have been going sour for a few years but grew decidedly frosty in 2020 when the UK removed Huawei from its networks over security concerns.

Amid ongoing concerns over the Ukraine crisis, China appears to be building closer ties with Russia as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were seen side-by-side at the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this month displaying a potential indication of Sino-Russian unity.

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Tensions between MPs and their government on China have come to a head during debates in the House of Commons, including reported human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in China’s Xinjiang province.

Dominic Raab, the former UK Foreign Secretary, announced sanctions against Chinese government officials over the Uyghur human rights violations.

Mr Raab said: “The evidence of widespread human rights abuses in Xinjiang cannot be ignored – including mass detention and surveillance, reports of torture and forced sterilisation.

“Working with our international partners we are imposing targeted sanctions to hold those responsible to account.”

However, the recent revelations suggest Mr Johnson plans to discard these sanctions and build closer ties with the country following Brexit, which leaves the UK free to sign advantageous bilateral deals with countries in the Indo-Pacific.

On Thursday, February 24, MPs will hold a debate to discuss the UK’s relationship with China, and Russia, in the Chamber.

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