Daniel Korski

Dealing with China in 2010

Dealing with China in 2010
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The execution of Akmal Shaikh has brought China to our frontpages, and to the forefront of diplomatic thinking, as the New Year begins. The question is not just how to respond to this single and, in many regards, sad event – but how to deal with growing Chinese power more generally. How will we shape our relations with China for this decade and beyond?

It would obviously be wrong to end all UK-China links over Akmal Shaikh’s execution. The Labour government's use of pique as a guiding principle of foreign policy had little effect on Russia and will not move China. Nor should anger over the excecution – however righteous or justified – occlude Britain's real interests in cordial Sino-Anglo relations.

The right thing would be to lodge a strongly-worded démarche (done), organise the EU as a whole to do the same (also done), and order a wholesale review of our China policy.

For, even though cordial relations should be an aim – indeed, the aim – of all diplomatic relations, this cannot be pursued at all costs or under all conditions. Beijing's behaviour now and at the Copenhagen talks shows, without doubt, what the West is dealing with: a revanchist power that wants to meet the West on its own terms, taking the rights conferred by the Westphalian state system but respecting none of the responsibilities. China's talk of "face" is somehow only relevant to itself, not to others.

It is time to wake up to this reality and look at how to improve the leverage the West has. What do we have that China wants? Let's look at withholding things whenever China acts up. Or what about making travel by Chinese tourists to Europe a bit harder and more expensive? What about a "carbon deficient" warning label on all goods from China sold in Europe? Or a meeting of all EU leaders with the Dalai Lama – Beijing will hardly cut off ties to all of Europe.

I am not looking for a trade war or a tit-for-tat fight. but a better use of Western assets in the same cold, calculating way that China acts.