China poses “a significant threat” to the UK and the government should move to curb its dependence on the superpower to enable it to respond to aggression or abuses by Beijing, MPs have said.
But while supporting a potentially risky shift in using stronger language towards the economic and military giant, the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) warned it must be backed up by action rather than “empty rhetoric”.
It also noted that by being more resilient to China’s “weaponisation” of supply chains, Britain would be more effective as “a global player”.
However, the committee acknowledged for the foreseeable future China would continue to be a competitor as well as an essential partner to the UK, not just economically but also in terms of cooperation on issues such as climate change and trade.
MPs on the FAC said the sustainability of this approach needed to be addressed when updating the integrated review of defense and foreign policy.
The report said: “The long-term goal must be to foster greater resilience and economic diversification, so that in the future the UK has the freedom to choose its actions in response to any aggression or human rights abuses by the PRC.
“If we are resilient to the PRC’s weaponization of supply chains, we can be more effective on the world stage as a global player.”
Highlighting the risks of taking a tougher stance towards Beijing, including loss of opportunities for collaboration, the committee pointed to the series of threats posed by the Chinese government including stealing intellectual property and intimidation of British citizens, alongside its record of human rights abuses.
The authoritarian regime has faced criticism over its crackdown against democracy protesters in Hong Kongits aggressive stance towards Taiwan and the persecution of the Uyghur Muslims and other minorities.
The Chinese government recently “removed” a consul general and five of its officials involved in a failure with a Hong Kong protester inside its Manchester consulate.
The report said: “The government needs to be firmer and more explicit in articulating the UK’s security interests when it comes to China.
“The primary responsibility of the state is to keep its people safe.
“China poses a significant threat to the UK on many different levels.”
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A government spokesman said: “We recognize China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests – but as the FAC’s report acknowledgments, we cannot simply ignore China’s significance in world affairs.
“We are evolving our approach to China into one of robust pragmatism – something which is also recognized and understood by our allies and partners.
“We continue to speak out to defend human rights, and with our allies and partners we’re managing this sharpening competition by improving our resilience, and in particular our economic security.”