Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will use a keynote speech at Mansion House on Tuesday 25 April, to set out the UK's policy towards China.

In the evening speech in London, Cleverly will say that the UK should continue to engage robustly and constructively with China where our interests converge, on issues ranging from climate change to trade and investment.

However, the UK will also be unflinchingly realistic about China’s authoritarianism, standing up for our values and being clear about our right to act when Beijing breaks its international obligations or abuses human rights.

The Foreign Secretary will reject any attempts to describe a country of China's scale and complexity in one word or phrase, whether ‘threat’, ‘partner’ or ‘adversary’. He will challenge the ‘clear, easy, satisfying, but wrong’ assertion that isolating China is in the UK’s interests.

In the speech, Cleverly will set out the UK’s multifaceted approach to China over three pillars. 

First to strengthen national security protections whenever Beijing poses a threat to UK people or prosperity; second to deepen cooperation with friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific and across the world to uphold international law and; third to engage directly with China to promote stable relations.

The Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet, which the Foreign Secretary will address, is traditionally a moment for Foreign Secretaries to set out their views on a broad range of foreign policy issues. This year however, in recognition of China’s huge significance to global affairs, the Foreign Secretary will break with tradition and focus solely on China.

On the issue of national security and upholding UK values, the Foreign Secretary will say:

"We do not expect our disagreements with China to be swiftly overcome, but we do expect China to observe the laws and obligations that it has freely accepted.

“If China breaks them, we are entitled to say so and to act, as we did when China dismantled the freedoms of Hong Kong, violating its own pledge, and we gave nearly 3 million of Hong Kong's people a path to British citizenship.

“Peaceful co-existence has to begin with respecting fundamental laws and institutions, including the UN Charter, which protects every country against invasion”.

The Foreign Secretary will call on China to be open about the purposes of its vast military expansion:

“At this moment, China is carrying out the biggest military build-up in peacetime history.

“The UK and our allies are prepared to be open about our presence in the Indo-Pacific. I urge China to be equally open about the doctrine and intent behind its military expansion, because transparency is surely in everyone’s interests and secrecy can only increase the risk of tragic miscalculation.”

To set out the importance of engagement with China, the Foreign Secretary will say:

“No significant global problem – from climate change to pandemic prevention, from economic stability to nuclear proliferation – can be solved without China.

"To give up on China would be to give up on addressing humanity's biggest problems."

"It would be clear and easy – perhaps even satisfying – for me to declare a new Cold War and say that our goal is to isolate China.

“Clear, easy, satisfying – and wrong. Because it would be a betrayal of our national interest and a wilful misunderstanding of the modern world.”

The speech will condemn China's repression in Xinjiang and pledge that the UK will continue to highlight the suffering of the Uyghur people:

"When Britain condemns the mass incarceration of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, I hope our Chinese counterparts do not believe their own rhetoric that we are merely seeking to interfere in their domestic affairs.

"Just as we should try harder to understand China, I hope that Chinese officials will understand that when their government builds a 21st century version of the gulag archipelago, locking up over a million people at the height of this campaign, often for doing nothing more than observing their religion, this stirs something deep within us.

"Our revulsion is heartfelt and shared unanimously across our country and beyond. We are not going to let what is taking place in Xinjiang drop or be brushed aside."

Last month, (13 March 2023) the Government published the Integrated Review Refresh (IRR).  It set out how China under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses an epoch-defining and systemic challenge with implications for almost every area of government policy and the everyday lives of British people.  In responding to this challenge, the UK will strengthen our national security protections, align and cooperate with our partners, and engage where it is consistent with their interests. 

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