The remarkable life of Henry Kissinger

The next few weeks will be filled with remembrances, fulsome appreciations, and harsh criticism of Henry Alfred Kissinger, who died on Wednesday at 100. His prominence is well deserved. The only modern secretaries of state who rank with him are George C. Marshall and Dean Acheson, who constructed the architecture of Cold War containment in the late 1940s. Kissinger’s central achievement was updating that architecture to include China, less as an American ally than as a Russian adversary. Until the late 1960s, Washington and Beijing had seen each other as bitter foes, not only because they had fought each other in the Korean War but because they represented the era’s two

Cindy Yu

How China cornered the green market

When Rishi Sunak announced that the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars would be delayed by five years, he framed it as a common-sense move. What he didn’t say is that he had been advised that, had the original deadline stuck, Britain’s electric vehicle (EV) market would have been handed over to China. Going green, Sunak was told, would mean going Chinese. At the COP climate summit in Dubai starting this weekend, other leaders will have reached the same conclusion. They’re all a bit late. With little fanfare and a lot of state help, Chinese companies are now world leaders in wind, solar, hydro, lithium batteries and electric cars

Why Argentina is turning its back on Brics

‘Today, the rebuilding of Argentina begins’, Javier Milei declared in his first speech as the new president-elect. The anarcho-capitalist is wasting no time in his mission.  Milei has already pulled the plug on what was set to be current president Fernandez’s career-defining achievement: Argentina’s historic admittance to Brics (a loose alliance of economies led by Brazil, Russia, India and China). Argentina’s new leader intends instead to swivel westwards, prioritising trade and relations with ‘the liberal democracies of the world’, while casting a backwards glance at China. Is Milei right to reorient Argentina, or is he biting the hand that feeds him? Beijing has declared it a ‘grave error’ if Argentina

Israel’s war with Gaza has exposed China’s impotence

Only last week, China was pushing itself forward to be the regional eminence grise in the Middle East, the powerbroker driving renewed Palestine-Israeli peace talks. In August this year, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi said that Chinese-mediated detente was driving a ‘wave of reconciliation’ in the Middle East. China’s inflated sense of its influence in the region came to a juddering halt in the light of the horrific attacks on Israel by Hamas militants last weekend. As a self-declared mediator in the region, China refused to condemn the Isis-style barbarity of Hamas, instead choosing to chide Israel for refusing to enter talks. It called for both sides ‘to remain calm

John Connolly

James Cleverly defends his China policy

How should Britain handle its relationship with China? That’s an increasingly fraught question inside the Tory party lately, with several China hawks in government and on the backbenches keen to limit engagement while classifying the country as a security threat. Earlier this year, James Cleverly faced criticism after becoming the first UK Foreign Secretary to visit Beijing in five years – a trip he defended at the time as necessary for diplomacy, arguing that disengaging from the country was not ‘credible’. Speaking to Cindy Yu at conference today, for a special edition of the Chinese Whispers podcast, Cleverly defended his position again, saying: ‘Foreign secretary flies to foreign country to have

Ian Williams

Can China contain Evergrande’s collapse?

The Chinese Communist party appears set to kill off its largest economic zombie, while gambling that it can control the fallout. Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer, first defaulted almost two years ago, as China’s property bubble began to burst. It has since been able to stagger on from one crisis to another, while struggling to restructure its mountain of debt and sell its assets. Now even the CCP seems to have decided this is untenable. The problem for the party is that Evergrande is not the only occupant of China’s economic valley of the living dead, and the impact of its collapse may be impossible to control. The signs

Ian Williams

The mystery of China’s missing ministers

Two down and who knows how many more to go. This week, Defence Minister Li Shangfu became the latest of China’s top leaders to vanish, reportedly caught up in a corruption scandal. He has not been seen for three weeks and his disappearance comes three months after that of foreign minister, Qin Gang, and follows a purge at the top of China’s Rocket Force, which oversees its rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal. Li lasted just six months in the job, having been appointed in March. At a security forum in Beijing late last month, one of his last public appearances, Li said the world was entering a period of ‘instability’ –

Cindy Yu

Cindy Yu, Charlie Taylor and Petroc Trelawney

17 min listen

Cindy Yu tells the story of how she got to know Westminster’s alleged Chinese agent and the astonishment of seeing herself pictured alongside him when the story broke (01.12), Charlie Taylor, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, talks breakouts, bureaucracy and stabbings, and wonders – where have all the inspirational leaders gone (06.45), and Petroc Trelawney shares his classical notebook and describes a feeling of sadness as the BBC Proms wraps up for another year (11.54). Produced and presented by Linden Kemkaran.

Martin Vander Weyer

How to do business with China

Amid reports of Chinese spies in Westminster, we learn that Huawei – the telecoms manufacturer western governments shun for fear of cyber espionage – has launched a smartphone containing microchips more advanced than anything China was previously thought capable of making. Some analysts say China is now ahead of the US in tech fields ranging from AI to robotics, while, in the auto sector, BMW chief executive Oliver Zipse (announcing plans to make electric Minis at Cowley from 2026) described Chinese electric carmakers with improved battery technology as an ‘imminent threat’ to his industry in Europe. In response, Rishi Sunak – after a brief and no doubt deeply oblique meeting

Is it time to admit China is a ‘threat’?

Former Tory leaders are queuing up to take a pop at the government’s response to the Westminster spy story. Liz Truss has labelled China the ‘largest threat’ to ‘democracy and freedom’ after it emerged that a parliamentary researcher had been arrested on suspicion of spying for the Chinese government. Iain Duncan Smith suggested that ‘the problem lies in the mess we have got into over whether we define China as a threat or not’. So far, the government is doing its best to sit on the fence. Rishi Sunak has said he ‘will not accept’ Chinese interference in the UK’s democracy, but has refused to go much further. Deputy Prime

Sam Leith

There’s not much we can do about China spying

A parliamentary researcher has just been arrested on suspicion of espionage. A man in his late twenties, with reported links to the security minister and the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, is accused of spying for China and may have had access to sensitive secret documents. A second suspect has been collared in Oxfordshire. It’s said to be the worst Westminster security breach in years: ‘We haven’t seen anything like this before.’ I’m sure you were as surprised as I was to find out that the Chinese are spying on us. Gobsmacked. Flabbergasted. Probably nearly as surprised as the Prime Minister. And to hear his spokesman tell it,


‘Chinese spy’ arrested in the Commons

Oh dear. The Sunday Times is tonight reporting that a Westminster parliamentary researcher has been arrested on suspicion of spying for China. The male suspect, who is in his late twenties, is reported to be linked to a number of senior Tory MPs, including several who are privy to classified or highly sensitive information. Among them are Tom Tugendhat, the, er, security minister, and Alicia Kearns, chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee. Oops. Counterterrorism police are reported to have swooped on the researcher and another man in his thirties on suspicion of espionage-related offences back in March. The researcher is British and held a parliamentary pass, with the Sunday Times quoting one Whitehall source

Ian Williams

China’s ‘standard map’ is a chilling reminder of its imperial ambitions

The Chinese Communist Party’s ‘standard map’ is updated each year to include Beijing’s ever-extending territorial claims. Neighbours see it as a sinister measure of Beijing’s imperialist threat, but to the party it is a sacred document, a badge of legitimacy, encapsulating its historic grievances and its growing ambition. It must be faithfully reproduced in school textbooks and in government and corporate handouts and plastered to the walls of workplaces and classrooms.  The timing of the latest edition is unfortunate – or perhaps deliberate – coming just ahead of next week’s summit of G20 countries in Delhi, a meeting that President Xi Jinping intends to snub. It seemed to send a

Ian Williams

James Cleverly is clueless on China

At least James Cleverly had somebody to meet. The Foreign Secretary’s last effort to get to Beijing was postponed after his Chinese counterpart disappeared in late June. Former foreign minister Qin Gang has not been seen or heard of since. Gang’s whereabouts are as mysterious as Cleverly’s China policy, which is beginning to feel a lot like a re-tread of the incoherent and failed past strategy of ‘engagement’. That policy, as far as it can be described as one, was driven by greed and gullibility. It added up to little more than kowtowing to Beijing, largely ignoring its growing repression at home and aggression overseas, while at the same time

James Cleverly’s China trip is a betrayal of the Uyghurs

Think of the genocides that have taken place in the past. Picture the hardened faces of the perpetrators you’ve seen in photographs on historical documentaries. Now imagine a British Foreign secretary standing beside these perpetrators, shaking hands with them, gushing about how much he values their relationship. It seems unthinkable.  As a Uyghur, I don’t need to imagine this though – it happened today when James Cleverly traveled to China to stand beside the men who are attempting to destroy my people. Cleverly will be well aware of China’s treatment of Uyghurs. Xi Jinping initiated his genocidal campaign against them as far back as 2016. The last few years have

Cindy Yu

‘I want to see my parents. I’ll take any deal’: the Tiananmen Square leader desperate to return to China

Taipei Anyone in China who remembers the Tiananmen Square protests will remember Wu’er Kaixi. As thousands of students began a hunger strike in May 1989, premier Li Peng held live, televised talks with the protest leaders. Wu’er Kaixi, then 21, turned up to the talks in hospital pyjamas, oxygen bag in tow, and berated the elderly communist leaders. It was an electrifying moment. After the CCP’s bloody crackdown, he found himself second on the party’s most-wanted list. He fled China and eventually ended up in Taiwan. We meet in a Taipei jazz bar, which he tells me is his ex-girlfriend’s favourite spot.  Kaixi, as he asks me to call him,

Cindy Yu

James Cleverly faces his biggest challenge yet on his trip to China

Much has changed since the last time a British Foreign Secretary visited China. Back in 2018, when Jeremy Hunt met his Chinese counterpart, foreign minister Wang Yi, the world had never heard of Covid-19, Hong Kong remained mostly immune from interference from Beijing, and the truth about the mass internment camps in Xinjiang had only started emerging. Hunt and Wang agreed to keep ‘building the ‘Golden Era’ of China-UK relations’. How different the world looks, just five years later, as another British Foreign Secretary prepares to visit Beijing.  In British diplomatic circles, the term ‘golden era’ has been retired, as various human rights and geopolitical spats have led to the UK adopting

China’s property sector is on the brink of disaster – again

Once, not that long ago, few people outside China had heard of the property developer Evergrande. Now it is synonymous with failure, debt and loss – and seen as the tipping point in China’s real estate market three years ago. Now meet Country Garden, another large property developer, hailed even a year ago as a model ‘corporate citizen’. As of this week, it is a penny stock facing a debt and liquidity crisis, cannot service its US dollar debt, and is on the brink of default. Its financial demise is not quite on the scale of Evergrande, but it comes at a worse moment, when China’s economy is in the

Gareth Roberts

Why aren’t we more afraid of China?

Electric cars made in China could be turned off remotely, immobilising them instantly and crippling the West. That terrifying prospect was highlighted by Professor Jim Saker, president of the Institute of the Motor Industry. ‘The car manufacturer may be in Shanghai and could stop 100,000 to 300,000 cars across Europe thus paralysing a country,’ Saker warned. Yet few people seem bothered. Nor was there much reaction to Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith’s claim on LBC this week that Beijing may have used a hidden device in Rishi Sunak’s car to track the PM’s movements. If this allegation involved another country it would likely have lead the headlines for days. But, because

Cindy Yu

Chinese cities are being sacrificed to save Beijing

Bazhou and Zhuozhou, two small cities to the south of Beijing, have been submerged in record floods since late July, when Typhoon Doksuri swept through China’s northeast. Nearly one million people have been displaced. But this is not just a natural disaster. The region has taken more than its fair share of floodwaters. All of this is a deliberate strategy to protect Beijing, the capital, and Xiong’an New Area, a project dear to Xi Jinping’s heart.  Residents are understandably furious. Yesterday, a group of Bazhou residents took to the local government building to demand compensation, for the second time in three days. The protestors were met with pepper spray and batons.