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The UK and China: A Framework for Engagement

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 22 January 2009

The Government today are launching “The UK and China: A Framework for Engagement”. This document sets out our policy towards China over the next four years.

The paper states that, while China is already one of the world’s top four economies, we are probably still only in the early stages of its re-emergence. China’s impact on UK interests is already critical, and it is growing. Chinese markets and investments are increasingly important for UK business. More broadly, Chinese policies are enormously significant for our global agenda: addressing the need for economic, financial and institutional reform through mechanisms such as the G20, managing global pressure on resources, promoting lower carbon growth and sustainable development, achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs), and reducing conflict and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. On security issues, China is a pivotal member of the UN Security Council and its regional relations will be key to Asian stability.

The framework offers three pillars for the UK’s response to this challenge and sets out the series of outcomes we are working for under each. The outcomes are in places aspirational and by necessity subject to review. In a period of economic uncertainty, achieving our targets in trade and economic co-operation will be particularly challenging.

The three pillars are:

Getting the best for the UK from China’s growth: this is about encouraging China to see the UK as a global hub, and boosting our business, educational, scientific and cultural gains from the bilateral relationship. It is also about ensuring the UK has the right domestic policies in place to benefit from China’s growth.

Fostering China’s emergence as a responsible global player: this is about encouraging an approach of responsible sovereignty on international and global issues, from proliferation and international security to sustainable development and climate change. It is also about helping China to define its interests increasingly broadly.

Promoting sustainable development, modernisation and internal reform in China: this is about influencing China’s evolving domestic policies, helping China manage the risks of its rapid development and, over time, narrowing differences between us. Greater respect for human rights is crucial to this.

Our strategy also sets out the tools at our disposal to pursue these aims: regular interaction with our Chinese counterparts from the Prime Minister down, our growing network of diplomatic posts, the European Union, and our co-operation with other partners within the EU, with the US and with others. Working towards the outcomes we want will require patience, persistence and effective partnership. We will be candid where we disagree but we will ensure that the relationship remains characterised by co-operation, not confrontation. Building a progressive, comprehensive relationship with China will be a major priority in the years ahead.