At last, the Western world is waking up to an obvious truth: The Chinese Communist Party is a deeply unpleasant regime that is hell-bent on world domination, and is most certainly no friend of the West. This realization should have struck everybody 20 years ago, but the upper echelons of our society were perhaps too trusting—or too greedy. Debate was almost nonexistent. Happily, that is no longer the case.
Several months ago, I argued in a Newsweek article that elements of Britain’s elite have, in recent years, been complicit in their own capture by the Chinese. I pointed out that all sorts of senior figures, from big business, politics and the civil service have cozied up to companies such as the tech giant Huawei. With the promise of what Nigel Inkster, the former director of operations and intelligence for the British Secret Intelligence Service, has recently called “life-changing sums of money,” it is easy to see how this has been possible. Firms like Huawei have done a very effective job of securing a veneer of respectability by buying off much of our establishment and then infiltrating our infrastructure. Indeed, since 2010, when David Cameron was in Downing Street, the Chinese have been welcomed into our nuclear industry, our steel production and, of course, our telecommunications network. All of this fits with its expansionist outlook.
A new report published this week, entitled “China’s Elite Capture,” reinforces my point of view. One of its contributors, Charles Parton, a retired diplomat, has this to say about China: “I describe it as a black vulture, sitting on policymakers’ shoulders.” This metaphor is pretty chilling, and yet still in the U.K., apologists for this appalling regime are regularly quoted throughout our media making the case that China is economically vital to us. Just this week, a former chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, warned that Britain should “tread carefully” in managing its relationship with Beijing. But there are now strong indications that money is not considered the most important priority.
With this in mind, Prime Minister Boris Johnson now finds himself in a difficult position. In a recent speech, he declared himself to be a Sinophile. (Frankly, this sounded like a desperate justification of his decision to allow Huawei to occupy a significant portion of our 5G network in the first place.) Yet Johnson has now been outflanked and outmaneuvered both by his own MPs, many of whom believe Huawei is guilty of espionage, and also by broader public opinion. According to one recent poll, an astonishing 72 percent of Britons would be willing to pay more for medical and telecoms equipment if it guaranteed greater self-reliance, and therefore a looser relationship with China.
The scale of the rebellion among Conservative MPs to reverse his Huawei decision means that Johnson will be forced to obey their wishes. This move, however, should mark only the beginning of a wider discussion with our true allies in the English-speaking world about the China question.
The fact is that, as COVID-19 has continued to run rampant around the globe, China has used this crisis of its own making to try and spread its power base even further. In doing so, it has made a fundamental error in not understanding Western culture. In response to rumors that the Huawei deal will end, China’s ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming, issued the following threat this week: “We want to be your friend. We want to be your partner. But if you want to make China a hostile country, you will have to bear the consequences.”
Deep state bullying tactics from a regime that is used to getting its own way will always backfire spectacularly in a country like Britain. The Chinese used the same modus operandi earlier this year, when Australia asked for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. On that occasion, tariffs were slapped on key Australian exports, including barley. Threats and intimidation may work in China and, sadly, in Hong Kong as well, but they won’t wash in London.
It has taken the coronavirus crisis to see the true face of Chinese Communism, and it is every bit as brutal as the infamous, oppressive Communist regimes of the 20th century. Perhaps even the most “woke” students will start to realize that Donald Trump is not the true oppressor. Instead, Xi Jinping is the truly wicked figure of the age. China’s human rights record under him is abysmal. Urgent questions are now asked about why China has imprisoned up to a million Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang re-education camps over the last few years. The same goes for long-suffering Tibet, a region in which rape, murder and torture have been ruthlessly carried out by the Chinese since the mid-20th century. As for Hong Kong, China’s decision to renege on the “one country two systems” agreement is plain for all to see.
If the British establishment thinks that ditching Huawei will be the end of the matter, it is in for a shock. My sense is that the British people are asking why our country would want a Chinese dictatorship involved in its nuclear industry. I certainly don’t, and will campaign for its removal. The same applies to the sale of British steel to the Chinese. On a personal level, I will do my best never to buy any goods made in China. If millions of others feel the same way, our manufacturing industries could see quite a revival.
The debate here, in Australia and in the U.S. presidential election will decide this power struggle for the future of the world. If breaking with China means we are all a little financially poorer to begin with, but we are able to protect our security and our global alliances, it will surely be a price worth paying.