China is upset with the UK government’s latest white paper for finding drawbacks in its most ambitious development model. Describing it as a malicious defamation of China’s role in global development, Chinese analysts said that it was nothing but desperate effort by the former colonial power to maintain its global influence and tackle its own internal social and political divisions.
2. The UK government’s white paper has found major flaws in China’s development model like lower standards, limited transparency, corruption, and poor coordination with multilateral systems. The white paper remarks are extremely significant in the wake of the fact that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had stated in the past that the so-called “golden era” of relations with China was over and Beijing’s systemic challenge to Britain’s interest and values were growing more acute.
3. The white paper claimed that “between 2008 and 2021, China had made 498 US billion dollars and loan commitments, equivalent to 83 percent of World Bank sovereign lending during the same period”, adding that “its increased assertiveness in seeking to shape the international order makes it essential for us to navigate the challenges that will come with its evolving development role.”
4. The tension has been escalating between UK and China especially in universities, research fields, hi tech and other strategic businesses for quite some time. The UK universities are likely to face huge damage by sustained diplomatic rift between Britain and China, according to a report that predicted difficulty in replacing the Chinese students who now take up more than one in four international PhD places. The US based Daily, the Guardian reported the UK has turned away Chinese students from UK projects. The US Daily referred to a gradual shift in UK policy towards China adding that the shift was due to erosion in trust between the two countries.
5. But Global Times refuted the claims and instead blamed Britain due to its closing proximity with the US. Many MPs wanted government to go further and designate China as a threat. Li Guangjie told the Global Times that such hostile remarks towards China were desperate attempts to tackle its own crisis, showing that the previous colonial empire was deeply troubled by its waning global influence and met problems in positioning itself in the current world, especially after the turmoil of Brexit.
6. Chinese observers said that the Sunak administration, with the recent appointment as foreign secretary of former British Prime Minister David Cameron, famous for pragmatic China approach, lacked determination to drive China-UK relations on the right track and dig them out of the current low tide.
7. The white paper has insisted on refocusing UK aid on lower-income countries, to scale up efforts to achieve the SDGs, to promote open societies, reform international institutions and further prioritise the needs of women and girls, people living with disabilities and other marginalised groups. These actions will help to make the UK Aid budget go further in contributing to the global goals. But Chinese observers did not endorse the content of white paper.
8. “The goal of this white paper from the British Government is to ensure that Anglo-Saxon nations continue to play a dominate role in the global development pattern, with intolerance towards any non-Anglo-Saxon nation assuming leading position in the development pattern. Fundamentally, it’s a matter of leadership in the world affairs. The UK finds itself unable to accept China playing a leading role in world affairs”, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University said.
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9. Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, recently called for expanding the voice of developing countries in global governance, at an open debate on promoting sustainable peace through common development at the UN headquarters in New York City.
10. Another Chinese expert, Luo Zhahui, chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency maintained that China is the developing country that has implemented that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the fastest. “We have eliminated absolute poverty, achieved the SDGs poverty reduction target ten years ahead of schedule, and fully built a moderately prosperous society.”
11. Diplomatic experts found three factors responsible or the change in the UK’s tone towards which included UK’s growing concern about China’s human rights record, its military expansion, and its economic policies. The UK has a desire to diversify its economic relationships and reduce its reliance on China. The UK’s increasing alignment with the US as another factor as the latter has also taken a more hawkish stance towards China.
12. The white paper is a significant document that stets out UK’s vision for international development for years to come. The UK has set out a re-energised approach to international development in a white paper, aimed at working with partners to tackle global challenges in the years up to 2030. It is to be seen the impact of white paper on relations between China and UK in the days to come.