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David Cameron’s craven surrender to China follows a pattern

3 December 2013

‘This week I make a visit to China. I come with a clear ambition: to build a lasting friendship that can become a blueprint for future cooperation between our countries. We have a responsibility through our ongoing dialogue to work together on a range of wider international issues – from negotiations with Iran, to counter-terrorism and climate change.’ 

North Korea’s President Kim on the verge of his latest visit to Beijing? It must be. North Korea is China’s only ally in the normal sense of the word. With all other countries, Beijing’s relationship waxes and wanes depending on how ‘friendly’ Beijing deems them to be.

But no, actually. This, lightly edited by me, was David Cameron writing in the Chinese trade magazine Cai Xin, on the eve of this week’s visit to China taking with him one of the largest trade delegations, 120 strong, Britain has ever sent abroad.

Knowing that some spoil sports may carp that he should say something in China about human rights – when Boris Johnson was in Beijing recently he told a BBC interviewer that mentioning freedom, for instance, was a matter for the Foreign Office – Mr Cameron praised China’s top leaders for setting a clear goal: comprehensive reform, including issues such as ‘the judicial protection of human rights…’ This will come as news, if he ever hears these words, to Liu Xiaobo, China’s only-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, now serving an eleven-year sentence for calling for democracy, his fourth sentence since 1989 for this crime which in Beijing’s eyes threatened ‘stability’ and appeared to call for counter-revolution. There are many other such counter-revolutionaries in China, either behind bars or under house arrest, like the artist Ai Weiwei, one of the designers of the Olympic Birds’ Nest stadium and the creator of the sunflower seed installation some years ago at Tate Modern, and the several dozen members of the New Citizens Movement, who would find Mr Clegg a good leader.

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In short, whatever judicial human rights protection the prime minister imagines has come about in China, it does not exist. Indeed – one of the notable things about the new president, Xin Jinping, is his reemphasizing the need for tougher treatment of dissidents, using Mao Zedong’s memory as a model, the very Mao whose gigantic portrait still gazes down on Tiananmen Square.

Then there is Beijing’s renewed claims in the seas near and not so near China, where it has established a zone in which it threatens the vessels of Japan and the Philippines that dare to sail there, and a no-fly zone so outrageous that the US, which does not lightly confront China, has flown B52s through it to underline the freedom of the international skies.

And to choose one more issue – until recently the most sensitive between London and Beijing – the Dalai Lama – here Mr Cameron has done the kind of craven selling-out that the chancellor and London’s mayor did on their visit. What Mr Cameron had to do over the past eighteen months was to abjectly apologize for seeing the Dalai Lama, invariably condemned in Beijing as the ‘criminal Dalai’, in the crypt of St Paul’s in May 2012 for less than an hour, along with Deputy Prime Minister Clegg. Beijing immediately cancelled bilateral ministerial visits. Messers Osborne and Johnson saw no top leaders, and it needed Mr.Cameron to say variously he had ‘no plans’ to see the Dalai Lama again and to insist that the UK did not support Tibet’s independence, something that then Foreign Secretary David Miliband had made clear years ago.

Has no one in the Foreign Office informed Mr Cameron that human rights, democracy, actual justice in actual courts, and adherence to the norms of international behaviour are regarded in Beijing as either crimes or symptoms of Western imperialist imposition? Was it really a good idea to sign up to Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, which is so closely censored that even the words ‘Communist Party’ are not allowed to appear. Are separate dinners with President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang a sufficient reward for this kowtowing?

There is a long tradition of this on both sides of the House. In 1991 when John Major became the first international leader to visit Beijing after Tiananmen, he asked me for a list of several hundred political prisoners that Amnesty had given me. After he saw Premier Li Peng, Mr Major told the British journalists waiting outside the room that he had virtually banged the table about human rights and handed Mr Li the Amnesty list. That evening Foreign Secretary Hurd underlined for me how Mr Major had laid it on the line with Li Peng. All of us wrote admiring pieces about Britain’s principled stance. The Observer gave my piece a gratifyingly prominent spread. A week or so later an official who had been in the room told me that no mention whatsoever was made of human rights and no list of prisoners came out of Mr Major’s pocket and into Li Peng’s hand.

It seems that whatever crawling was necessary to have a good visit this time was done here, before Mr Cameron left the ground.

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Show comments
  • takasar1

    jonathan must live in some dream world….

    “human rights, democracy, actual justice in actual courts, and adherence to the norms of international behaviour”

    never heard such twaddle in my life….as if any of the above mentioned, even exist.

  • lukebc

    Whatever happened to the good ‘ole days when the uk would just send our
    warships to these nasty ‘ole heathens chinkies and just bombard their
    filthy unchristian places into HAVING to accept good ‘ole uk
    OPIUM!…..bugger!…. now we are going to these chinkie heathens with
    our hands open begging we are!….

  • George Smiley

    All this talk is at least a year out of date. Unlike Hu Jintao the party apparatchik, Xi Jinping and his wife are hardliners and nationalists from the Chinese Army, and he definitely is not going to let Old Etonians and American Neoconservatives lecture him how to run his own Country and getting away with it.

  • davidhill

    Politicians are a major part of our constant problems as we all know.

    In six years time China will become the No.1 economy in the world according to the IMF and Citigroup and around $23 trillion in nominal terms. In PPP terms it will attain this No.1 position in 2016. Some 33 years ago in 1980, China’s economy was a mere $202 billion using equivalent 2012 base prices or only 1/114 of what it will be in 2019. Who says communism does not pay? But why has the West gone the opposite way and where we have accumulated vast unrepayable debt over those years unlike China that has now amassed officially around $5 trillion in foreign reserves and going up by the year? Some economists say that it is double this figure. It appears therefore to me to be a situation of its own making where the West through the driving force of its investors and corporates to make profit, have shot themselves in the foot long-term. But where some say that profit is another word for sheer greed. For now these same western companies are being bought up throughout the EU and the USA if anyone undertakes a Google search of what is happening around the world. Indeed China is buying strategic western businesses at an accelerating rate of knots and where western government debt is also being mopped up by Chinese money. In this respect it is estimated but unofficial by some leading European institutions that China has now bought up 25% of all the Euros in the world. Adding to this Chinese investors have been buying up real estate for quite a few years now like it is going out of fashion in the USA, buying up the world’s coal and many other natural resources and basically buying everything that moves or stands still. All this at its base through western money and one does not have to be an Einstein to see where all this is leading. The words that come to mind are ‘master’ and ‘servant’ and where western governments and corporates appear to have sold the people in the West down the proverbial swanee river at the vast expense of their people for the last three and half decades. But things are going to get far worse unfortunately and where we should have been investing in jobs in our own countries and developing our great innovative talent. But again that now is even being bought up by the Chinese again and Cameron’s recent Chinese visit is
    just swan song to what a disastrous socio-economic mess that our political and corporate business leaders have got us all into in a relatively short period of time.

    Dr David Hill
    World Innovation Foundation

    • lukebc

      *Schadenfreude* – LOOK IT UP!!!!!

      Cameron sucking the mandarins d!cks IS doing exactly what macartney refused to do!!!…… BUT cameron IS ALL BUT DOING IT!!!!…..of course the intransigence of the Chinese might be due to *the FACT* that uk warships blew their way “through to the heathen chinkies”…….SO whatever happened to the good ‘ole days when the uk would just send our
      warships to these nasty ‘ole heathens chinkies and just bombard their
      filthy unchristian places into HAVING to accept good ‘ole uk
      OPIUM!…..bugger!…. now we are going to these chinkie heathens with
      our hands open begging we are!….

  • Daniel Maris

    Jonathan Mirsky tells it like it is – there has been kowtowing and brown-nosing on an industrial scale to get us back to base level with the Chinese (you know – where they get to trade with us freely, without respecting any rules such as copyright while they continue to oppress hundreds of millions of people in the grossest way).

  • Terry Song

    When profit is on the horizon, morality and dignity are no longer relevant. Human rights abuse, corruption, environment degradation can all be forgiven as long as dirty Chinese money flows in our prestigious schools and Burberry shops.

    Previously Labour thought it was good to open our door to mass immigration from Africa and Middle East with complete disregard to Britain’s values and history. Thanks to them we had London 7/7 bombings and the cowardly murder of Fusilier Rigby. Now the Tories want to do their part in ruining this proud country.

    • HookesLaw

      Ignorant rubbish
      But we can all decode what you mean.

      • Daniel Maris

        Apposite facts, you mean.

    • bridgebuilder78

      Speaking of opening doors to mass immigration, who let you in, little Chinaman?

      • Terry Song

        Ha little chinaman? Is that the best you can do?

        • bridgebuilder78

          Go back to China, Chinaman.

          UK does n’t need you.

          • George Smiley

            Except you are definitely yourself a member of the Chinese Troll Army. You were very active indeed over in the Daily Telegraph site, and don’t think you weren’t!

  • HookesLaw

    ‘Laid it on the line with China’.
    Now compare our exports to China with say Germany’s. That worked out well didn’t it?

    Take a look at a – our trade deficit and b – our financial deficit and tell me we can afford to be picky.

    What a dipstick you are.
    If China is so bad then why are we buying so much from them. It would not surprise me if everything you wear and half the presents you buy at Christmas is made in that terrible country China.
    More utter drivel from the Spectator.

    • Tom Tom

      The EU has an MFN Treaty with China because Clinton signed one for the USA and under reciprocal treaties the EU automatically grants access. Britain does not control imports into the UK which is a member of the EU.

      Britain is not a major force in China and never will be just as it is marginal in Germany

      • HookesLaw

        As this article points out
        The EU is still in negotiations with China over trade. China is in the WTO.

        The EU had a MFN agreement in 1985. Clinton broke a campaign pledge to ratify one in 1994. Clinton said he was convinced the Chinese would take more steps to improve human rights
        if the issue were separated from the threat of trade sanctions.

        All of which points to how stupid this article is. It does not matter what the agreement may say – if we go round rubbishing China (deserved or not) theyt are likely not to buy off with us when there are so many others willing

        • Tom Tom

          China imports less from the UK than Spain or Belgium…….it would be better to focus on Brazil and Africa since China only imports to copy.

          • HookesLaw

            The low level of goods China buys from us surely points to why we should be keen to sell more.
            The Chinese will pay a premium for the real thing. eg Range Rovers

            • Daniel Maris

              No, it points to the fact that the Chinese don’t like us, not unreasonably since we sold them opium with the backing of our navy, occupied their territory, and tried to colonise them.

              Brazil and Africa are much better markets for us.

        • Daniel Maris

          I thought the trade was supposed to be free – now you are saying the trade happens as a matter of state policy as far as the Chinese side goes. Own goal there.

    • Daniel Maris

      If this argument were sound and effective, then every mafiosi on the planet would be a wonderfully ethical being. Only bad things come from mixing with bad people, as we have seen in relation to the Saudis who have pay for extremism to be planted in every big city in our country.

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