By Dr John Hemmings
The West is just starting to wake up to the fact that China is not going to democratize. I think there was a time when many in government believed that we could keep doing business with it because ultimately, it would become “one of us”, just another nation. Not only is China not going to democratize, it’s worse than that. The revelation this summer that more than a million Uighurs – ethnic Turks living inside China – have been put inside concentration camps for “re-education”. This fact alone should make us reconsider the relationship with Beijing. The fact is that we are still doing a lot of business with a regime that is going to diverge from British values and Britain’s national interests more and more – and worst of all – we’re making them stronger.
Chinese companies have swept through Britain’s ailing businesses, taking companies that might make its military stronger. Beijing’s newest aircraft carrier has British components that make it as strong and dangerous as the US’ versions. There are allegations that British scientists are helping China with its radar technology, while it’s clear that a number of British universities are unwittingly educating the cream of China’s military scientists. If American ships are sunk by China in a future war over Taiwan, there is the scary prospect that British kit was used. One can only imagine the tension this would introduce into the relationship.
Now much of the world has begun to wake up the new authoritarian nature of China under Xi Jinping. India has just banned Huawei – a Chinese telecommunications firm – from building its 5G digital infrastructure. And here we are, just frozen in the headlights of Brexit, trying to figure out what level of risk is acceptable to our data and our system. Britain has to realize that the “Golden Era” is over and that it’s time to re-think the relationship. This doesn’t mean a new Cold War, but it does mean a smarter, more careful China policy. One in which we aren’t giving away the technologies that help us maintain the rules-based order.