Council on Geostrategy reveals China’s foreign policy playbook

Council on Geostrategy reveals China’s foreign policy playbook in new report by China expert Charles Parton OBE

In a new report by Charles Parton OBE, a retired career diplomat with 37 years experience and an established China expert, the Council on Geostrategy has outlined China’s foreign policy playbook and how it seeks to exert influence on Britain and other liberal democracies.

This new paper considers the state of United Kingdom (UK)-China relations, how they may fare in the future and outlines the tools China uses to coerce the UK’s behaviour. China, for example, approaches the UK with a ‘carrot and stick’ approach whereby economic cooperation is enhanced and used as leverage to punish any actions the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would consider harmful to its own interests.

The paper predicts that Britain is likely to find itself in the ‘diplomatic doghouse’ in future if it is vocal about concerns such as human rights in China or Taiwanese independence. As a result, the UK will likely be subjected to increased verbal attacks by the CCP as well as potential economic measures. However, the CCP’s ‘bark’ is likely to be worse than its ‘bite’ with any punitive measures imposed upon the UK also harming China in return.

To prepare for this eventuality and insulate itself against Chinese repercussions, the UK government should:

  • Increase ‘China literacy’ in the government by increasing the amount of officials with Chinese language skills, and/or direct experience and knowledge of the CCP.
  • Government and parliament should increase their own knowledge and understanding of the aims and nature of the CCP by engaging more with academics, think-tanks and relevant businesses.
  • Carry out an urgent assessment of how much the CCP can damage the British economy through punitive measures.
  • Having devised a clear China strategy, the government will need to create structures allowing the UK to improve work on China in positive areas, while shielding British interests in other areas.
  • Consult with key partners such as the Five Eyes, Japan and Taiwan to adopt unified policies towards China.

James Rogers, Director of Research at the Council on Geostrategy, said:

Given the arbitrary placement of sanctions by the Chinese Communist Party upon several British parliamentarians, this paper comes at an opportune time to highlight how China will treat Britain when it does not get its own way.  

In Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea, China continues to ignore international rules and agreements and has taken on the role of a ‘systemic competitor’, as identified in the Integrated Review. 

It is crucial that Britain, as well as other free and open nations, understand how the Chinese Communist Party might react when third parties call out Chinese human rights violations, so that they may formulate appropriate policies in response.

Commenting further on the government’s lack of ‘China literacy’, Charles Parton OBE said:

The government faces the problem of having too few officials with Chinese language skills and/or with direct experience and knowledge of the CCP. 

To its credit, the FCDO has put considerable resources into China and into Chinese language training, after a period when it cut training and incentives for retaining proficiency in Mandarin . But even it has few top level officials with China experience. 

Making up the shortfall in experience quickly is going to be difficult. It will require a mixture of internal incentives and external recruitment.