LibLink: Vince Cable: Don’t let healthy scepticism about China become paranoia

A tasty breakfast

As Business Secretary, Vince Cable was responsible for global trade and had to deal with the growing economic might of China. He writes about this in an article for City AM.

He has a stark warning for those seeking a trade deal. It’s not going to be much fun without 27 of your mates to watch your back:

And while the EU with its combined heft is able to be both tough and constructive, Britain on its own will be a largely powerless supplicant. I suspect that the Chinese, seeing Britain desperate for a trade deal of its own, will be looking forward to a tasty breakfast.

The current slowdown in China’s economy will have knock on effects across the world.

Vince has ideas about how the west should engage with China for mutual gain:

Instead, the key question now for us and the rest of Europe is whether to continue close engagement at a time of major tension. There are at present two western responses, and the difference is crucial.

The first is fundamentally hostile, seeing China as a security threat by virtue if its success and size – a viewpoint that is taking hold in the US. That would be a big mistake, since China’s reemergence is inevitable, and in many respects welcome.

The second is to concentrate on getting China to conform to international standards of trading and investment behaviour. It is not a poor developing country anymore, and should not be treated as such. Its model of “state capitalism” will have to adapt if there is to be meaningful cooperation.

Vince also thinks that we shouldn’t exclude Huawei.

There are warnings that, in the brave new world of 5G technology, it is dangerous to allow a Chinese company to become one of our leading suppliers. I am sure that there are legitimate concerns, but I recall that these were aired throughout my five years as business secretary, and yet repeated, careful vetting of the company found no good reason to exclude it on security grounds.

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  • There is a virulent strain of anti-Chinese viewpoints both on the hard right and hard left. The Chinese government own some water companies and the National Grid and all citizens have benefitted from the investment, which would have never come if they had been held by the British government. There has never been a security threat by them to our water or electricity.

    We should encourage more Chinese investment into Britain, be it state or private. To oppose it would be little more than racist.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Feb '19 - 11:32am

    Vince Cable was on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme on 4/2/19. He said that whether Greg Clark resigns is really about the Prime Minister. In the Commons he asked about how much money had so far been paid to Nissan and got a factual answer.
    Chris Bryant (Labour) called for a mass resignation of Remainers from the Cabinet in order to force the PM’s hand. Greg Clark is an unlikely resigner. When a mass resignation was agreed in a Labour Cabinet, only one did and he looked around in a lonely manner.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Feb '19 - 11:43am

    Ann Clwyd MP (Labour) asked the Speaker about the propriety of government money being spent in Labour held seats in exchange for the votes of Labour MPs on Brexit.
    She was followed by Frank Field MP (Labour) who said that he represents a northern constituency and had voted to support the government without any need for payment.
    The Speaker replied in careful, but unusually strong, language about the high integrity of both MPs, and with negative implications about the government.
    A final ruling in writing is promised.

  • So criticising the human rights record of the Chinese government is racist. Thanks for enlightening me Mr Stimpson.

  • David Raw is absolutely right. Challenging the case for Chinese investment on human rights grounds is responsible liberal internationalism and in no sense racist … and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

    And why, Mr Stimpson, would you be so keen to welcome Chinese state investment in U.K. infrastructure – whereas, since you are an evangelical advocate of free market capitalism, you would no doubt condemn such investment by the U.K. government as “irresponsible state socialism”? Why the apparent double standard?

  • David Evans 5th Feb '19 - 3:34pm

    I find Vince’s words (as reported here) rather disconcerting. Doubtless, there are those who see “China as a security threat by virtue if its success and size,” but there are many more, including most Lib Dems I hope, who see “China as a security threat by virtue if its totally alien political and diplomatic culture amplified by its success and size.”

    The first is economic protectionism. The latter is respect for Liberal Democratic values.

  • I do not care if foreign countries want to engage in state capitalism / socialism, so long as Britain never ever does. Should we stop US investment because we all hate Trump? Should we stop Nordic investment because we are opposed to high taxes in Norway? Should we oppose Singapore investment because they are statist? Should we stop Saudi investment because the hard left bullies Saudi Arabia daily?

    To reject these countries is racist. A foreign state is no different than a private company when it comes to investment. It’s notable that when it comes to rail franchises – the extreme left get angry about the foreign governments profiting – the motive is clearly xenophobia.

  • Stimpson
    People who object to the British government owning infrastructure are clearly and only Anglophobic. All objections to this are merely a cover for their Anglophobia, anti British politics and double standards.

  • Glen your statement makes no sense, but then you seem to have taken up the role of victim, a very Bexiteer mind set.

  • Dear Frankie
    Thank you for you reply. However , the post in question was meant as parody of Stimpson’s numerous ruminations on the nature of state ownership . It was by design not supposed to make sense and it certainly was not meant seriously.

  • Anyway it’s the time for red envelopes.

  • The problem is that “Ban Huawei” will be quite popular in a hypothetical general election, if not more popular than the other course of action.

    Stimpson – Sir, Communist China often install chips and hacking crypts in their industrial products, especially those manufactured by multinationals operating in China. The intelligence agencies in many Western countries are aware of this.

    Their foreign acquisitions of various industrial firms in US/Europe also aim to acquire key industrial secrets, rather than just the good old maximizing profits.

    Additionally, they often bully the foreign companies which want to operate in China to hand over technology and industrial secrets, while never really open their markets to countries whom they have trade deals with. We should not open our market to a country which will never really lower trade barriers to us, while often forcing our companies that want to operate in their country to hand over tech secrets to get an entry.

    Finally, allowing foreign state-owned enterprises to operate in Britain while opposing British SOEs is purely hypocritical.

  • Vince is right to call a China trade deal “a tasty breakfast”. In such a trade deal, Communist China will never really reduce trade barriers and open their markets to us, but still force to open our market, grant privilege to Chinese investors, lower foreign takeover laws if we have any, and worst, bully British firms looking forward to enter China to hand over technological secrets.

    Not to mention industrial espionage problems, via many ways such as hacking chips/devices or industrial spies. For God’s sake, just keep Huawei and Co (which have links with the Communist government, not a purely private company) away from national infrastructures.

    David Evans – I lean to the first view because Communist China is indeed a national threat to the US and its allies. And it’s so big that any negotiations with it should/must be done via the EU as a whole unless you are the US. Otherwise, we will be the junior partner. Vince’s final sentence is OK if we have decent foreign investment regulations.

    David Raw – I am even more concerned about its expansionist “Greater China” policies in the South China Sea in recent years than its human right records.

  • David Raw – an even bigger concern is Communist China’s expansionist behaviour in South China Sea in recent years.

  • David Evans – I am leaning towards the first view. Communist China is a legitimate threat to the Western world. And the intelligence agencies are aware of that. The ban/restrictions om Chinese investments in the US have already begun during the Obama administration.
    Communist China has been implanting spy chips and devices into the supply chains of Western companies. The big problem here is that every major company has part of its supply chain in China. Inviting Chinese investments into key infrastructures certainly pose grave dangers to national security. In addition, Chinese major tech firms like Huawei and ZTE always have link with the Communist government.
    I believe that banning Chinese investments is a suitable course of action. Multiple cases of industrial/tech espionage and hacking, as well as expansionist behaviour in Asia Pacific, suggest that China cannot be trusted. I think Britain should even distance itself from “Belt and the Road” initiative.

  • Stimpson – China never open its market and lower trade barriers to foreign companies, or to other countries, even if a trade deal exist. Giving their companies access to British market and national infrastructures will only give them unfair advantage.
    Besides, Communist China always involves in unfair practices such as dumping (don’t you forget that Chinese dumping nearly killed our steel industry several years ago), or industrial/tech espionage. They also often force foreign firms to hand over industrial and tech secrets as a requirement to enter their market.

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