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Volume 982: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if, on his visit to China, he discussed military co-operation in response to events in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I discussed a wide range of issues with Chinese leaders, in the light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and its implications. Our discussions covered the prospects for co-operation including the sale of British defence equipment to China and exchanges of defence-related visits.

Is not Soviet concern—albeit an obsession—about China a partial explanation of events in Afghanistan? Did the Secretary of State discover why the Chinese have put such a high proportion of their scarce resources into constructing the Karakoram highway and pouring defence equipment into a dubious regime in Pakistan?

It is a matter of opinion whether the Chinese attitude to the Soviet Union had any or some responsibility for the Soviet action in Afghanistan. Certainly we and our Allies have without exception, condemned that aggressive act. The use of Chinese resources is a matter for the Chinese and their judgment. I thought that their approach, in so far as they revealed it to me, would certainly have the support of the West.

May I welcome the increased co-operation between the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China, and urge my right hon. Friend not to overlook the fact that the People's Republic of China, like the Soviet Union, is not unknown for its invasion of independent countries? May I refer my right hon. Friend to the Chinese invasions of Tibet and of the Republic of Vietnam?

Given the threat that the world faces at the moment from the sustained build-up in the Soviet Union, it is as well for the West and for Europe, including this country, that there should be a strong Chinese determination to resist any aggression, should it ever occur.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this touching love affair of the Conservatives for Communist China convinces no one? In drawing up in future his balance of power—which, by the way, is by no means as impressive as the IISS balance—will he not fail to take note of the vast Chinese forces on Russia's eastern flank which quite alter the balance, even from the Secretary of State's point of view?

If we did not know the hon. Gentleman so well it would not be clear from that intervention which side he was on. I think that it is just as well from the point of view of the West that events in the East attract a substantial part of the Soviet military forces on that eastern border.