Mark Sedwill says UK must be willing to 'confront' China

Ex-national security adviser Mark Sedwill says UK must be willing to ‘contest, contain and confront’ China when it ‘breaks international norms’ and warns Western unity against Beijing has been ‘sadly lacking’

  • Mark Sedwill said UK must ‘contest, contain, confront’ China over rule-breaking
  • Ex-national security adviser said China ‘respects strength’, called for more unity
  • He said ‘common purpose across the Western alliance… has been sadly lacking’
  • Comments came as Boris Johnson faces Tory revolt over his China strategy 

Mark Sedwill today said the UK must be willing to ‘contest, contain, confront’ China when it ‘breaks international norms’ as he warned the Western alliance must show greater unity when challenging Beijing. 

The former national security adviser said China is now ‘much more aggressive in its region’ and ‘like all authoritarian regimes, respects strength and unity’. 

He said if the West is going to ‘push back effectively’ against ‘unacceptable’ Chinese behaviour then ‘we need to do so with a sense of common purpose across the Western alliance and that has been sadly lacking over the past few years’.  

His comments came as Boris Johnson faces a Tory revolt over his strategy for relations with China.

The PM published the Government’s Integrated Review this week and the security document calls for ‘deeper trade links’ with China despite also admitting it is a ‘systemic’ threat to the West. 

Some Tory MPs believe the Government should take a much tougher stance, urging Mr Johnson to ‘call out’ China for the ‘geo-strategic threat it is’.  

Mark Sedwill today said the UK must be willing to ‘contest, contain, confront’ China when it ‘breaks international norms’

The former national security adviser’s comments came after Boris Johnson unveiled his new security strategy earlier this week

Lord Sedwill was grilled on the UK’s relationship with China during an appearance in front of the House of Lords’ International Relations and Defence Committee this morning.       

He told peers that under the leadership of President Xi Jinping China is ‘much more aggressive in its region’ as he cited the ‘crackdown in Hong Kong’ and the ‘appalling treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang’. 

He said: ‘We have to, while maintaining the access to the economic opportunities, the imperative to cooperate with China on the big environmental challenges and some security challenges, we must also be able to contest, contain, where necessary confront Chinese behaviour when it breaks international norms.

‘I think we have seen… that is a trend in Western countries’ policy generally, very robustly in the United States, actually robustly here too in my view, Australia as well for example, less so among some of our other allies, but I hope they will bring themselves to the same appreciation of the need to stand in solidarity to contest, confront, contain China’s unacceptable behaviour because when we do have a sense of common purpose then I think that is our best opportunity of influencing it.

‘China, like all countries, like all authoritarian regimes, respects strength and unity among the West and we need to show more of that.’

Lord Sedwill suggested the West had failed to show a united front on some issues in recent years. 

He told the committee: ‘If we are going to push back effectively against those parts of Chinese behaviour that are unacceptable, whether domestic or international, we need to do so with a sense of common purpose across the Western alliance and that has been sadly lacking over the past few years and that is partly why China has been able to advance a more assertive agenda and indeed pick off or seek to bully individual nations.

‘The Australian’s face significant economic sanctions as a result of calling for a robust investigation by the WHO into the origins of coronavirus.

‘And to be candid they didn’t get much more than rhetorical support from elsewhere around the world.’ 

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