China expressed strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the updated Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy released by the British government, which portrays China as an "epoch-defining challenge" and hypes up the Taiwan question.
"For all countries, China is an epoch-defining opportunity, not a challenge," a press release by the Chinese Embassy in the UK on Tuesday said. The Embassy spokesperson stressed that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory, and expressed opposition against other countries' interference in China's internal affairs.
The updated Integrated Review, which was delivered on Monday by the UK's Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly to the House of Commons, set out how the British government will "approach the challenges presented by China." It labeled China as an "epoch-defining challenge," pointing fingers at China's foreign policy and criticizing China on issues related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
When the original version of the UK's Integrated Review was published in 2021, it described China as a "systemic competitor." It did not mention the island of Taiwan, while the updated version did five times.
The fact that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has not defined China as a threat proves that he is still trying to maintain a balance in his policy toward China, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times. "The UK government's perception of China has not gone entirely negative."
Cui pointed out that the actual attitude Sunak has adopted toward China since taking office is not as negative as he professed during his election campaign.
Hyping issues related to China shows that the UK is now eager to accept the diplomatic caliber of the U.S., Cui said, indicating that the UK also hopes to use this to serve its strategy in the Indo-Pacific region thereafter.
The UK's constant spin on the "China threat theory" is a means of shifting attention from its incompetence in managing domestic political chaos to foreign countries, the expert said. "It is a common tactic adopted by some countries in Europe and the U.S. in recent times."
As for repeatedly referring to Taiwan island in the review, the UK's tougher stance on the Taiwan question is to cater to the strategic goals of the U.S., Liu Zuokui, a research fellow on European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Feng Zhongping, director of the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that since the Taiwan question is one of the most hyped topics in the West these days, the UK may want to play up the threat to keep in step with the U.S., although the issue itself is a complete smear against China.
Judging from the wording of this review, the UK is trying to prove that it is still a major country despite its declining international influence, Cui said. Its foreign policy in the near future will still be dominated by the U.S..
Cui noted, however, that Sunak should take a more pragmatic approach when it comes to China.
"In fact, the scale of both existing and potential room for cooperation between China and the UK is very large. If the UK continues to maintain a tough China strategy, such cooperation would be likely affected," Liu said.
"I must remind the UK side that only by developing a correct perception of China and upholding mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit, and win-win cooperation can China-UK relations move forward in a healthy and steady manner," said the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in the UK on Tuesday.