LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM — The UK government needs a more coherent and unified approach to China if its so-called tilt towards the Asia-Pacific region is to succeed, a critical report by MPs said Wednesday.
Ministers should publish an unclassified version of the China strategy as part of a “coordinated, whole-of-government approach”, the 87-page report by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said.
It brands Beijing “a threat to the UK and its interests”, arguing that “the behaviour of the Chinese Communist Party is currently characterised by increased aggression” towards Britain.
The report also urges London to develop “deterrence diplomacy”, increasing resilience and defense-orientated policies with allies, to counter Chinese threats and protect “the self-determination of the people of Taiwan”.
The paper’s publication — following two years of evidence-gathering and research — coincides with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly arriving in Beijing, in the first visit by Britain’s top diplomat for over five years.
He has faced criticism for the trip but insists some engagement with China is necessary to further UK national interests and promote stable bilateral relations.
However, the cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee said that aim has been hindered by the government’s own internal incoherence towards the region.
“It appears that there is confusion in Whitehall about the tilt to the Indo-Pacific, stemming from a failure to explain the policy, and its implications for resource allocation, across government,” said the report, using another name for the Asia-Pacific region.
It urged “greater clarity on detail” and “concrete steps” to help deliver the shift.
The UK first detailed its strategic “tilt” towards the Asia-Pacific region in March 2021, as part of the biggest overhaul of security, defense, and foreign policy in decades.
Touted as “Global Britain” repositioning itself post-Brexit, it was seen as an overdue response to China’s growing geopolitical importance.
The shift includes deepening ties with its regional rivals, such as India and Japan, as well as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Other key areas include bolstering regional relationships in everything from military and space to cutting-edge technologies.
But more than two years on, Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said “there is still too much unsaid” around the policy.
“Strengthening our diplomatic, defensive and economic ties in the Indo-Pacific is critical — if the West leaves a vacuum, China will eagerly fill it,” she added, highlighting a raft of recommendations.
They include announcing “zero tolerance of transnational repression,” including being prepared to expel foreign diplomats involved in intimidating or attacking British citizens or those given refuge in the UK.
London should engage with Taiwan to secure domestic investment in the semiconductor and wind industries, and build an alternative supply source for advanced semiconductors and wind energy components, the report urged.
The UK must expand alliances such as the AUKUS defence pact with Australia and the United States, and join the Quad strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, it added.
Britain should also further develop economic and people-to-people ties with Asia-Pacific countries, according to the report.