Boris Johnson told to take tougher stance on China as Tory MPs launch new research group

Senior party figures including Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat and former Cabinet minister Damian Green last night launched a new “China Research Group” to “promote fresh thinking and debate” about international relations with the communist regime. The organisation is understood to have been inspired by the European Research Group which has been hugely influential in driving Tory policy towards the EU.

It follows concern among MPs about the Chinese regime’s attempt to suppress information about the initial outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan and the involvement of the Chinese tech giant Huawei in the development of the UK’s 5G mobile phone network.

Tory MPs involved in the China Research Group want more global scrutiny of the Asian giant’s growing economic power and influence in high-tech industries.

While insisting the initiative is not “anti-China”, the MPs want to investigate who the regime uses state aid to promote Chinese trade while blocking foreign investment in China.

MPs supporting the group include Neil O’Brien, Dehenna Davison, Anthony Browne, Laura Trott, Kevin Hollinrake, Alicia Kearn and Andrew Bowie.

Mr Tugendhat, chairman of the China Research Group, said: “The Coronavirus crisis underlines the urgent need for a better understanding of China’s place in the world, and our economic and diplomatic engagement with it.

“Beijing’s long pattern of information suppression has contributed to the unfolding crisis.

“The party is now using the current emergency to build influence around the world.

“Many aspects of life are now unimaginable without understanding China’s role as both partner and rival, and political and business leaders are urgently thinking about how to deal with Chinese Communist Party-backed national champions and China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative to influence third countries.

“Along with our allies, we must be part of this global conversation and to begin it, we need to understand what China’s leaders are saying and doing.

“The China Research Group will help British politicians be better informed.”

China Research Group secretary Neil O’Brien said: “Beijing is acting in a highly strategic way to dominate the industries of the future.

“Our businesses are being asked to compete unfairly with state-backed Chinese firms.

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“The Chinese state is making strategic inward investments in the West while banning them at home.

“Too often our intellectual property is unfairly extracted, and China is increasingly trying to reshape the rules-based world order in its own image.

“Even before Coronavirus, it was clear that we need new thinking to cope with a Chinese state which is growing in power, but no longer seems to be on a road to reform.”

The new group will aim to inform the debate on the rise of China by holding public seminars, and inviting leading thinkers and politicians from across the West to Westminster.

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