Sir David Davis writes in The Sun on Sunday on how the UK must work with our allies to stand up to China’s bullying tactics


As published in The Sun on Sunday:

Nobody should be surprised that the instant Britain had second thoughts about allowing the Chinese electronics company Huawei into the UK’s 5G network, the Chinese government instantly resorted to hard-line bullying tactics.

Britain will “bear the consequences” said Beijing’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.

This is not new. When the David Cameron government took power in 2010, China set about putting the relationship on the exact footing that they wanted.

A trade mission by Cameron in 2010 came away with a humiliating zero trade deal. In 2011, their Vice Premier told us to “stop finger-pointing” on human rights.

Then when Cameron and his deputy PM Nick Clegg met the Dalai Lama, China responded by cancelling every senior ministerial and official meeting for over a year. We were frozen out.

In 2013 Cameron buckled, publicly kowtowing to China, and publicly asking them to invest in Britain.

As for the Dalai Lama? We had “turned the page” on that, said number 10.

When the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, was due to visit in 2014, the Chinese demanded a 3 metre longer red carpet, and, in breach of normal protocol, that he be invited to see the Queen.

In 2015, after being refused a meeting, the Dalai Lama criticised Cameron for putting “money over morality.”

About then the Chancellor, George Osborne, talked about a “golden decade” of Sino British relations. It was of course “golden” on entirely Chinese terms.

The last 30 years have indeed been golden decades for the Chinese state.

Global free trade has allowed China to escape the desperate poverty that followed the Communist Party’s dictatorship of the country under Mao Tse Dong.

The modern Communist Party leadership grasped the opportunities of that free trade with both hands and exploited them ruthlessly.

Unlike most countries that enter into the modern free-market world economy, the iron grip of the state has not been relaxed, and the ordinary people have not enjoyed the freedom seen by the population of most modern states.

China is the most extraordinary surveillance state, with his own people spied upon as a matter of course.

Individual political freedom is non-existent.

Worse, a number of religious and ethnic minorities are oppressed, with at least a million detained in “re-education camps”.

The Uighur population face mandatory birth control, and fierce penalties for breaching family laws. The price of that golden age was that we turned a blind eye to this oppressive behaviour.

Now the Chinese government has started a crackdown on the people of Hong Kong, with its new security laws.

They can now conduct raids without a warrant, confiscate property, and put people under secret surveillance.

This is in breach of the agreement we struck with them that would allow the people of Hong Kong their freedoms for 50 years after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.

That was the “one country two systems” agreement, and the Chinese government broke. We cannot turn a blind eye to that.

It is time the West as a whole reset our collective relationship with China. Britain knows from his own history what happens when you repeatedly appease dictatorships.

That is now happening with China.

We should remember that the Chinese government’s misbehaviour at home is matched by its actions abroad.

As well as the bullying behaviour witnessed by any government that tries to stand up to them, they take aggressive actions whenever it suits them.

For decades China’s industrial growth has gained from persistent technological espionage against all its economic competitors.

This goes on still. At the moment there are major espionage cases going on in the American courts against members of the People’s Liberation Army, accusing them of stealing trade secrets.

This is on top of the casual attitude that China takes to its industries simply copying Western goods and ignoring the patents rights of the owners of the technology that they steal.

It’s foreign policy is equally aggressive.

It demands control over parts of the South China Sea that ought to be international waters, open to trade all sorts.

It clashes with India border as it flexes its muscles.

It seems to be reluctant to be constrained by even the basic norms of global conduct.

We saw this most recently with a coronavirus tragedy.

First China was slow to notify the world about the dangers.

Then it blamed just about everybody else for the pandemic, and tried to manipulate the World Health Organisation.

The result has been to crystallise concerns around the world about how long we can tolerate China’s behaviour.

Countries that had been willing to shrug off Chinese misdemeanours as the price of a successful global trading arrangement are now beginning to worry about where this is all going.

That may provide the answer to this problem. China has long gone in for divide and rule tactics, just like those used against Cameron’s government.

The time has come to organise ourselves to stand up against this.

The five eyes intelligence organisation, consisting of America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom is often thought of as the NATO for the cyber age.

It would provide the perfect backbone for an organisation aiming to ensure global security alongside global free trade.

In conjunction with countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and any European countries see the same threat, it should be entirely possible to face up to China and lay down some new rules.

The aim should be constructive.

We want China to continue to grow and take a very large part in the modern world economy.

So for example Britain should be able to refuse to allow China to dominate its critical infrastructure, but be perfectly open to Huawei selling its mobile phones and tablets into the consumer market.

But the price of China having such enormous open access to the richest markets in the world must be that it accepts rules of economic and political behaviour that fit the modern world.

The United Kingdom is in a tremendous position to be a leader in such a global organisation.

We are central to the five eyes, we have a new freedom post Brexit, we can be a candid friend to the Americans, and we have every interest in making such an arrangement work.