Lisa Nandy has welcomed the announcement of a new military partnership between the UK, US and Australia, largely seen as a bid to counter China, but has called on the government to take a “far more strategic approach” to Sino-British relations.
In a Sky News interview this morning, the Shadow Foreign Secretary told viewers that “we’ve seen in recent years increasingly aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea” by the Chinese government and added: “Today’s deal will be helpful.”
But she added: “We have to take a far more strategic approach to how we manage that relationship and that involves working with our allies, which is why we welcome today’s announcement, and we’d like to see the government go further.”
Nandy stressed the need for a “level of coherence” from government in its approach to China, arguing that some government departments have been “rolling out the red carpet” while the Foreign Office has imposed sanctions.
“It can’t make sense that while we’re sharing nuclear technology with Australia to deal with the challenge that China poses the government is also, for example, handing over a stake in our nuclear industry here in the UK to China without a proper assessment of the risks and the challenges that poses,” she said.
David Cameron signed an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015 for the Chinese state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group to become a 20% partner in the development of the planned Sizewell C plant in Suffolk and invest in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power facility. CGN also became the lead developer of the proposed Bradwell B plant in Essex.
“We’ve never faced a challenge quite like China. Not only have we seen genocide being committed against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang but we’ve seen the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong eroded in recent years,” Nandy said this morning.
More than a million Uyghur people are estimated to have been detained at camps in Xinjiang. Parliament declared that genocide is taking place in the region as they approved a motion, which does not compel action from the government, in April.
She added: “We have also seen China increase its influence in the global economy, including in the economy here in the UK. There’s no global challenge that can be solved without the active engagement of the Chinese government, whether it’s climate change or Covid-19.”
Keir Starmer welcomed the military partnership earlier today following a statement on the new agreement from Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister told parliament this morning that the alliance is not intended to be “adversarial” towards China.