UK must get tough with China over its sinister interest in our democracy – Scotsman comment

The free world must deal with the Chinese Communist Party ‘as it really is, not as we would wish it to be’

For years, democracies treated China as a responsible citizen on the world stage. In 2013, UK-China relations arguably hit their zenith when the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, declared the two countries were experiencing a “golden era”.

However, increasingly, the free world is waking up to the threat posed by this totalitarian, communist state, which has used globalised capitalism to become an economic behemoth with an outsized military to match. It has long used repression at home to quell internal dissent (even banning satirists’ suggestions that President Xi Jinping looks like Winnie the Pooh); attempted to bully its neighbours into making ridiculous concessions over contested waters; and made threats to invade Taiwan. Tellingly, Xi’s government has maintained warm relations with Putin despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Such a government should always have been treated with more than a degree of suspicion, but the UK Government has been slow to do so. Now, however, it has now announced sanctions on a company and two people over Beijing-linked cyber attacks on the Electoral Commission that exposed the personal data of 40 million voters and several politicians, including Scotsman columnist Stewart McDonald MP and former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. The latter rightly said: “We must now enter a new era of relations with China, dealing with the contemporary Chinese Communist Party as it really is, not as we would wish it to be.”

The Beijing regime’s actions show it has a sinister interest in UK democracy and a strong message must be sent that this is utterly unacceptable. Concerns that Chinese technology – like TikTok, which could be banned in the US unless the company is sold – is being used for surveillance purposes should also be treated more seriously.

Restricting the sale of, for example, Chinese chips in computers and other devices should be considered as part of a series of escalating measures designed to persuade Beijing to alter its behaviour. If it fails to do so, a more comprehensive ‘derisking’ and then ‘decoupling’ of the UK economy from China – particularly given the threat of a Taiwan invasion – may become necessary.



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