Taiwan Studies Programme

UK relations with China – upholding British interests in the face of the Chinese Communist Party's diplomacy

E07 Monica Partridge Building, Hybrid Mode: Streamed online and speaker on campus, Online registration
Thursday 4th November 2021 (12:30-15:00)

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The University of Nottingham's Taiwan Studies Programme presents a Public Lecture by Charlie Parton, China Ink. (Online and on campus)

UK relations with China – upholding British interests in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s diplomacy

Talk abstract

Many assume that for a country to pursue its own interests and thereby go against the wishes of the CCP leads to heavy punishment. Australia is often cited as an example. The CCP, the United Front and certain vested interests in foreign countries build up this assumption. Yet those countries which historically have incurred Beijing’s displeasure have suffered far less than is generally believed. Overall even Australia’s trade has barely diminished in the past two years.

The UK is said to be vulnerable in six areas: exports, investment, service and the City of London, education, tourism and climate change (the withholding of Chinese cooperation). Yet a dispassionate look at all six areas suggests that the threat is small. Furthermore there are good reasons for not welcoming uncritically Chinese investment into the UK, as well as a need for caution in investing in China.

The conclusion to be drawn is that the UK should make its policy towards China with an eye towards its own security, values and economic interests, without allowing unfounded fear of the CCP to prejudice its approach.

Short biography

Charlie Parton spent 22 years of his 37 year diplomatic career working in or on China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.  In his final posting he was seconded to the EU Delegation in Beijing, where, as First Counsellor until late 2016, he focussed on Chinese politics and internal developments, and advised the EU and Member States on how China’s politics might affect their interests.  He has also worked in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Libya and Mali.  In 2017 he returned to Beijing for four months as Adviser to the British Embassy to cover the CCP’s 19th Congress.

He is a senior associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, an associate fellow of the Council on Geostrategy, and was a Specialist Adviser on China to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee for its 2018-9 China Inquiries.  He runs his own advisory company on China, China Ink. He has published extensively in academic journals, many UK newspapers, the Spectator, Standpoint and appears regularly on the BBC, France 24, LBC and other media.

Event Review

Charlotte Trainor, , BA Politics and International Relations, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham

This talk provided guests with increased awareness on strategic measures that the UK should take with China in order to protect the relationship and ultimately ourselves. Chinese foreign policy interests have to be understood as CCP interests, this means the UK needs to take into account two approaches. The first, to properly understand the nature of the CCP and the second, to understand that their measures are simply aimed at upholding their own security, something all countries are entitled to do. Ultimately, when applying these two approaches, a clear perspective on this developing relationship can be maintained due to the common understanding amongst policy makers that China shouldn’t only be perceived as a threatening country. Nevertheless, there are still areas of interest that the UK needs to pay more attention too such as investment and exports because policy makers can’t forget to keep a realistic view on China and the nature of the CCP. 

No one should forget that China will always have the capability to inflict some pain on the UK so alongside these areas of interest, there should also be measures to uphold our own security prospects. One vital measure is that the UK needs a clear Taiwan policy. This tied in very well with a thoughtful question asked at the end of the session. The question on why hasn’t the UK government recognised Taiwan as an independent country is a difficult question for anyone to answer quickly, however Charlie Parton concentrated on the practicality of the situation and empathised that for now, the UK government should continue applying pressure and increasing our relations with Taiwan.

Clearly the UK should continue to be cautious of China and keep taking measures to uphold our own security. Simultaneously, the UK should continue devoting more efforts to learn about the complex nature of the CCP whilst taking advantage of our experts because it cannot be ignored that the Chinese governments relationship is symbiotic with the CCP.

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Taiwan Studies Programme

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD