News24 | A ‘clear-eyed’ UK won’t isolate China, says Cleverly – as USA’s ‘uninvestable’ comment rings loud

News24 | A ‘clear-eyed’ UK won’t isolate China, says Cleverly – as USA’s ‘uninvestable’ comment rings loud

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (L) and Chinese Vice President Han Zheng shake hands before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 30 August 2023. (Photo by FLORENCE LO / POOL / AFP)

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (L) and Chinese Vice President Han Zheng shake hands before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 30 August 2023. (Photo by FLORENCE LO / POOL / AFP)

  • On Tuesday, the US Secretary of Commerce remarked that China is becoming “uninvestable” for American companies – which is causing something of a stir.
  • The British Foreign Secretary, on the other hand, said it would be a mistake to isolate China, even as the UK remains “clear-eyed” about disagreements with China.
  • Both are on trips to China with a view to patch up economic ties, after recent diplomatic troubles.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Wednesday London wanted to have a pragmatic relationship with Beijing but warned it would remain “clear-eyed” about the areas where the two countries disagreed.

Cleverly was making a long-awaited trip to China on Wednesday in an effort to reset ties between the two countries after years of tension over security, investment and human rights concerns.

The foreign secretary has argued that it would be a mistake to try to isolate the world’s second-largest economy or tackle climate change without its input.

“We are clear-eyed about the areas where we have fundamental disagreements with China and we raise those issues when we meet,” he told broadcasters.

“But I think it’s important to also recognise that we have to have a pragmatic, sensible working relationship with China because of the issues that affect us all around the globe.”

‘Uninvestable’ for American companies

Just the day before, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said American companies have complained that China has become “uninvestable”, pointing to fines, raids and other measures that have made it risky to do business there.

Raimondo’s comments came on Tuesday as her delegation of American officials headed from Beijing to Shanghai. 

“Increasingly I hear from American business that China is uninvestable because it’s become too risky,” she said.

Raimondo said US firms are facing new challenges, including “exorbitant fines without any explanation, revisions to the counterespionage law, which are unclear and sending shock waves through the US community, [and] raids on businesses”.

That has presented “a whole new level of challenge and we need that to be addressed”, she said.

Asked to respond to the comments Raimondo made in China, the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu said that most of the 70,000 U.S. firms doing business in China wanted to stay, that nearly 90% were profitable, and that Beijing was working to further ease market access for foreign companies.

“China is actively advancing its high-level opening-up and making efforts to provide a world-class, market-oriented business environment governed by a sound legal framework,” he said. “China will only open its doors even wider to the outside world.”

UK political pressure 

The British government is under pressure from some lawmakers, including the former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who want London to toughen its policy on China and to declare the country a threat to British national security.

Cleverly said attempts to distill the relationship down to a single word or a soundbite were fundamentally flawed.

“It is an important country, it’s a large country, an influential country, and a complicated country, and therefore our relationship with China will necessarily be just as complicated and sophisticated,” he said.

Additional reporting by AFP and Al Jazeera.

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