Foreign Minister James Cleverly faces backlash from senior Tories over the perceived ‘appeasement’ of Chinese ‘autocracy’ amid first trip to Beijing in five years for talks with CCP officials
- Ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned the visit ‘smells’ of ‘appeasement’
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly today vowed to rebuild relations with China despite being warned by senior Tories over ‘appeasement’ of the ‘autocratic’ superpower.
Mr Cleverly has ended a five-year freeze in relations by travelling to Beijing for talks with senior officials from the ruling communist party.
But some Conservatives have warned that cosying up to China will send out the wrong message to a country notorious for its record on human rights and its efforts to subvert democracy.
Following face-to-face talks with vice president Han Zheng, Mr Cleverly said: ‘Some people think I shouldn’t be here, but it is more important than ever that we engage.’
The Foreign Secretary said he had had ‘tough conversations’ with the Chinese leadership and insisted he was ‘clear-eyed’ about Beijing’s agenda. ‘We are not going to change China overnight’, Mr Cleverly said.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, left, and Chinese Vice President Han Zheng attend a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday
Mr Cleverly has ended a five-year freeze in relations by travelling to Beijing for talks with senior officials from the ruling communist party
The Foreign Office said tonight that Mr Cleverly had tackled Mr Han and foreign affairs minister Wang Yi over a range of contentious issues, including human rights, Taiwan, the sanctioning of British MPs and China’s ‘malign cyber activity’.
The one-day trip was the first visit to Beijing by a senior British minister for five years.
A decade ago, David Cameron and George Osborne pioneered a new ‘Golden Era’ in relations which turned a blind eye to some of China’s excesses in return for enhanced trade co-operation.
But relations have been in the deep freeze following Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong and its conduct during the pandemic.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned that Mr Cleverly’s visit ‘smells terribly’ of 1930s-style ‘appeasement’ and questioned the value of it.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned that Mr Cleverly’s visit ‘smells terribly’ of 1930s-style ‘appeasement’ and questioned the value of it
Sir Iain, one of a number of MPs sanctioned by Beijing for speaking out against its human rights abuses, said: ‘I don’t understand why he’s there.
This is a country that has committed genocide in Xinxiang, they are threatening Taiwan, they have locked up British citizen Jimmy Lai on trumped-up charges in Hong Kong, they are spying on us and stealing our secrets.’
Alicia Kearns, Tory chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said Mr Cleverly should balance the visit with a trip to Taiwan to show that the UK had not abandoned the island state which is under threat of invasion.
She said: ‘It is imperative [he] steadfastly and vocally stand by Taiwan and make clear we will uphold its right to self-determination.
‘This commitment aligns not only with British values but also serves as a poignant message to autocratic regimes worldwide that sovereignty cannot be attained through violence or coercion.’