US China hawks to press UK minister for tougher line on Beijing


A Republican-led group of China hawks from the US Congress will visit Westminster on Friday where they are expected to meet the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, for lunch and press for the UK to take a tougher line on Beijing.

The 11-strong delegation is led by the Republican congressman Mike Gallagher, who chairs a high-profile, newly created China committee. Some fear a strident anti-Beijing tone will alienate centrist and left-leaning politicians in the UK.

Gallagher has called for a total ban on the Chinese-owned app TikTok, and argued in the committee’s first prime-time hearing that the US and China were locked in an “existential struggle over what life will look like in the 21st century”.

The group of eight Republicans and three Democrats – one senator and 10 from the House – will see Wallace informally in a restaurant away from the Ministry of Defence building, where they are almost certain to lobby him in person.

The MoD declined to say whether the meeting meant Wallace supported Gallagher’s anti-China positions. “Ministers routinely engage with elected representatives from different governments to discuss our respective policy positions on the key issues,” an official said.

Heavy Republican-led China lobbying has been seen as counterproductive in Europe, where critics of Beijing’s authoritarianism, such as the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (Ipac), want to build a cross-party consensus for firmer action against Beijing.

One British-based China expert said: “The US select committee has a reputation for being exceptionally hawkish on China, and it’s clear the energy comes from the Republican side.” They warned there could be a clash with Ipac when they meet.

A group of eight British MPs and peers, including members of the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, are due to hold a joint event with Ipac on Friday before the lunch with Wallace. They are expected to include the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, Labour’s Rushanara Ali and the Lib Dem peer David Alton.

A statement released by Gallagher before the visit set out the visiting delegation’s aspirations. “Chinese Communist party aggression is global, and the United States and United Kingdom face common economic, military and ideological threats posed by the CCP,” the congressman began.

“For the sake of both our nations and the sake of the free world, we must work hand in hand to stand up to CCP tech theft, united front work [Beijing’s global influence operation], transnational repression and flagrant violations of our sovereignty.”

The US delegation’s arrival in the UK comes shortly after the former prime minister Liz Truss began a five-day visit to Taiwan, where she gave a speech calling for an “economic Nato” to tackle Beijing’s authoritarianism and growing military strength.

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Taiwan’s independence from China could only be protected by “hard power”, Truss said, arguing that the answer was greater defence cooperation between western nations in the Indo-Pacific.

Leaked Pentagon papers from February show that Wallace was considering whether to base one of the UK’s two aircraft carriers in either Japan or South Korea after 2025, which the US said would demonstrate Britain was committed to a previously announced Indo-Pacific tilt in foreign policy.

Worries about the economic and military rise of China are a rare bipartisan issue in the US, with the Pentagon closely monitoring the development of Beijing’s armed forces and sabre-rattling over Taiwan. But in the UK, Labour has argued that Britain should show realism and focus on Russia and the Euro-Atlantic rather than the Indo-Pacific.

The Guardian

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