How Can the UK Stand Up to China? | Mark Corea

The past two weeks have seen the eyes of the world descend upon the Chinese region of Hong Kong, as the Communist Party of China pushed through the Hong Kong national security law, a piece of draconian legislation which threatens the democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong. The ambiguous law, which states in Article 23 that a person can receive a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for breaking it, including ‘undermining the performance of duties and functions’ of ‘the body of central power of the People’s Republic of China’, must be a catalyst for the UK to reconsider its relationship with the PRC.

The British Government’s opposition to the draconian legislation was made clear by the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who told the Commons that the law ‘constitutes a clear and serious breach of the joint declaration’ signed by the UK and the CPC. Raab also stated that the Government will make it easier for British National Overseas passport holders – which many in Hong Kong possess – to become naturalised British citizens.

Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, responded in the media claiming that Raab’s plans ‘constitute a gross interference in China’s internal affairs’, and that ‘no one should underestimate the firm determination of China to safeguard its sovereignty… attempts to disrupt or obstruct the implementation of the law will be met with the strong opposition of 1.4 billion Chinese people’. But, far from being a threat to the British Government, the words of Xiaoming are only further evidence that the West must stand firm against the brazen CPC administration.

But how can the UK stand up to the CPC? Not only does China boast the world’s largest economy in terms of GDP, but its influence on other countries provide a further source of worry for the West. While the Minister of State for Asia Nigel Adams condemned the treatment of Uyghur Muslims, of which 1.5 million are incarcerated in ‘re-education camps’, 50 UN member states which include Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, the UAE, and North Korea sent a letter, congratulating the Chinese Government for their ‘counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures’ against the Uyghur people.

One way the Government can stand up to China is through axing Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network. The Chinese company, which is essentially state-owned, was granted a contract to provide 5G infrastructure to the UK, but surrounding security concerns mean that the privacy and security of millions of British citizens could be at risk. The Prime Minister alluded to cancelling Huawei’s involvement earlier this week, as he stated that ‘the UK should not be in any way vulnerable to high-risk state vendors’, and that the UK must ‘come up with the right technological solutions’. Granting the contract to a more secure firm would not only protect the security of British citizens but would also be a financial hit to the CPC.

Another avenue for opposing the tyrannical methods of the CCP is through economic sanctions or trade restrictions. Raab recently introduced a system with which the UK would impose economic sanctions on human rights abusers, targeting the assets of state and non-state actors. Extending this to the CPC, who have curtailed the democratic rights of Hong Kong residents and who have deplorably abused the human rights of the Uyghur people, would be a strong statement, and place a further economic strain on the PRC.

A final way in which the UK could stand up to the CPC is through placing restrictions on trade. The most recent figures, for 2018, show that China made up 6.6% of the UK’s imports – its fourth largest source of imports. In an atmosphere where the relations between China and the West continue to worsen, advocators of free-trade economics, myself included, must realise that ending Chinese economic domination outweighs the cheap manufacturing provided by the PRC. According to Nomura, the economic tariffs imposed by Trump on Chinese manufacturing have positively benefitted other Asian countries including Vietnam and Malaysia. Should the UK impose similar sanctions, these countries offer an alternative for cheap manufacturing, and trading with them would stimulate their economies and help bring an end to the CPC’s economic primacy.

Perhaps an economic war of attrition is the only way in which Britain, as a bastion of democracy, can effectively stand up to the Chinese trade empire, and hope that her Western allies will follow suit.

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