OPINION - The Standard View: James Cleverly’s visit only highlights Britain’s China confusion

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Britain’s China policy tells a tale of confusion. Long gone are the chummy images of David Cameron and Xi Jinping sampling local ales in Buckinghamshire. Yet the Government does not seem quite as keen as the United States to turbocharge “decoupling” or “derisking” from Beijing. Instead, it is pursuing a middle way.

To that end, James Cleverly travelled to China to meet senior officials including the vice president. This is the first visit by a UK foreign secretary to China for five years, with Cleverly seeking to “address the challenges and differences of opinion that all countries have in bilateral relations”. Those differences are vast — and growing. First and foremost is China’s treatment of Uyghurs, which in 2021 Parliament voted to declare a genocide. Other disagreements include the Chinese Communist Party effectively ending democracy in Hong Kong, and its threats, both rhetorical and military, towards Taiwan.

Britain is not a great military power like the US or an economic one such as the EU. Still, we must get our policy right. Is China a threat to the UK and our interests or a vital trading partner? If it is both, how can we ensure our supply chains are more resilient and our defences more secure? Until we comprehensively grapple with those questions, British policy will continue to appear haphazard.

Rebuilding Met trust

The numbers are staggering, but scarcely surprising. The number of Met officers facing misconduct hearings has climbed to 260, with Sir Mark Rowley warning these cases could go on for years.

Writing in today’s Standard, the Met Commissioner acknowledged that “more ghastly cases” would come to light and that for too many years “poor resourcing and neglect of our professional standards have led to missed opportunities” to act against officers.

Reforming the Met is akin to turning round an oil tanker — it will take time. But the processes must now be put in place, and officers who should never have been allowed to become police removed. Only then will that hard-earned but easily lost trust between police and citizen start to be rebuilt.

Horror at the carnival

It is a similar narrative arc every August bank holiday. Great excitement in the build-up, a good time had by many, but a Notting Hill Carnival once again marred by violence.

The photographs of machetes being brandished on the streets of west London provide the shocking illustration for a weekend in which eight men were stabbed and more than 75 Met officers reported being assaulted.

That this behaviour is perpetrated by a tiny minority does not alter the fact that something has to give.