| 16 July 2024, Tuesday |

UK ‘clear-eyed’ about disagreements with China, Cleverly says during Beijing trip

London wants a pragmatic engagement with China but will stay “clear-eyed” about areas of difference, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in Beijing on Wednesday, during a visit condemned by some members of the ruling Conservative Party.

Cleverly is the first senior British minister to visit China in five years, hoping to re-establish ties between the two nations following years of friction over security, investment, and human rights issues.

The foreign secretary has claimed that isolating the world’s second-largest economy or addressing climate change without its participation would be a mistake, but some Conservative legislators feel the trip demonstrates British weakness.

“We are clear-eyed about the areas where we have fundamental disagreements with China and we raise those issues when we meet,” he told broadcasters.

“But I think it’s important to also recognize that we have to have a pragmatic, sensible working relationship with China because of the issues that affect us all around the globe.”

China Vice President Han Zheng told Cleverly at their meeting that he hoped the two countries could make new advances in their relations.

The British government is under pressure from several lawmakers, including the former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who want London to toughen its policy on China and to declare the country a threat to British national security.

One Conservative, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear what the “benefit” of the trip was.

“We should be robust toward China, but this looks the opposite,” the lawmaker said.

Head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Conservative Alicia Kearns, said she feared ministers had no coherent strategy on Beijing after her committee released a report critical of the government’s China policy.

She said the strategy was buried, “kept hidden even from senior ministers across government,” she said.

“How can those implementing policy – and making laws – do so without an understanding of the overall strategy?”

Cleverly said any attempt to distil the relationship down to a single word or a sound bite was fundamentally flawed.

“It is an important country, it’s a large country, an influential country, and a complicated country, and therefore our relationship with China will necessarily be just as complicated and sophisticated,” he said.

  • alarabiya