Government officials have reportedly been told not to use the term “hostile state” by the Foreign Office in case it upsets China.
The term cannot be used in documents and internal messages via email and WhatsApp between advisers, civil servants and ministers, The Times reported today.
One official in another department was reportedly told by the Foreign Office: “States aren’t inherently hostile themselves, they just do hostile things.”
Official publications, including the integrated review of foreign and defence policy, have stopped including the phrase, and pre-existing publications have been edited.
The term “hostile states” has been replaced with “hostile actors” and phrases such as “hostile state activity” have been replaced with “state threats”.
The Times said officials had described the decision as “ludicrous” and “extraordinary” and said it had caused “a lot of bemusement across government”.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the paper: “It’s pathetic. Our position towards China is we’ll deal with it with robust pragmatism but often you can’t be robust and pragmatic at the same time.”
The former Tory leader branded it “Orwellian political speak” and added: “The idea that China is not a hostile state is absurd.”
A government spokesperson told the paper: “The integrated review refresh uses a range of terms to describe the activities of state and non-state actors, including ‘state threats’.
“This terminology is agreed across government and is widely used by our allies.
“The government continues to take strong action to counter state threats against the UK, including measures to protect our supply chains from China’s coercive economic activity and the announcement last week of a new sanctions regime targeting Iran.”
City A.M. has contacted the Foreign Office for comment on the report.