There are fresh warnings today about China’s ability to intentionally disrupt international supply chains, with claims the UK could be particularly vulnerable.
The Evenstar Institute, a London foreign policy think tank, said in a new report today that “Beijing has repeatedly targeted direct trade for strategic purposes in recent years” and that “the UK is heavily exposed indirectly to China via third countries over which Beijing has significant influence”.
The Evenstar paper said there was “every reason to suspect that Beijing would” intentionally disrupt UK supply chains as retaliation for London’s increasingly frosty stance against China over the past few years.
It comes as Rishi Sunak earlier this week called for more “engagement and cooperation” with the growing superpower, while also declaring that the “golden era” of UK-China relations is over.
He also warned about the threat China poses to the UK’s national security, with the government this week buying out a state-owned Chinese firm from its stake in the Sizewell C nuclear plant.
Evenstar said the UK’s defence supply chains could be at risk of Beijing-forced disruption.
“The exposure of the UK’s supply chain to China should be a key national security concern,” the think tank said.
The Prime Minister’s tone toward China has been considered a climbdown from his tough anti-Beijing rhetoric during the Tory leadership race, which has frustrated some of his backbenchers.
Former Prime Minister Liz Truss was planning on designating China as an official “threat” instead of a “systemic competitor”, however Sunak is now unlikely to make this designation.
Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford said yesterday during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) that Sunak must get tougher on Beijing.
“China is more than just, as [Sunak] put it, a systemic challenge, but in fact an expanding, serious geopolitical threat,” he said.