Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Seventh Report


1. East Asia is a dynamic region, with half of the world's population, the world's fastest-growing economies[1] and a wide spectrum of diverse cultures and political systems. The region has huge economic potential, but also has hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people. The region also contains a number of significant security risks and unresolved disputes. The emergence of the People's Republic of China over the past ten years as an influential regional and international player increasingly engaged with international structures has had a major impact on every area of foreign policy. The UK relationship with China is "closer than at any time",[2] following the agreement of a Strategic Partnership in 2004,[3] and the EU will soon open discussions with the People's Republic on a Partnership and Co-operation Framework Agreement. However, the People's Republic of China is still an authoritarian one-party state, human rights abuses remain widespread and, despite changes in the economic system, signs of political liberalisation remain scarce.

2. Our predecessor Committee conducted an inquiry into China in 2000[4] and we judged it a suitable time to reassess developments, six years on. The FCO strategy, Active Diplomacy for a Changing World, published in March 2006, describes China as the first of a number of countries which will have significant global strategic significance over the next ten years[5] and relations with China are directly relevant to nine of the ten UK Strategic International Priorities.[6]

3. We announced our inquiry in November 2005 and have taken oral evidence from the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP, Mr Sebastian Wood CMG, Director, Asia Pacific, and Mr Denis Keefe, Head of Far Eastern Group, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Dr Christopher Hughes, Director, Asia Research Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science and Professor David Wall, Centre of Chinese Studies, School of Oriental And African Studies, University of London and Chatham House; Dr Linda Yueh, Pembroke College, University of Oxford, and Department of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, Professor Jude Howell, Director, Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Professor Yongnian Zheng, Head of Research, China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham; Mr Brad Adams, Director for Asia, Human Rights Watch and Ms Corinna-Barbara Francis, East Asia Team, Amnesty International; Dr Gerard Lyons, Chief Economist, Standard Chartered Bank, and Committee Member, Hong Kong Association, and Lord Powell of Bayswater KCMG, a Member of the House of Lords, and President, China Britain Business Council; Dr Dafydd Fell, Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, Dr Patrick Cronin, Director of Studies, International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Dr John Swenson-Wright, East Asia Institute, University of Cambridge; Mr Aidan Foster-Carter, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea, Leeds University, Dr Jim Hoare, former member of the research cadre of HM Diplomatic Service, and Mr John Ashton, Chief Executive, E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism.[7]

4. We received over sixty pieces of written evidence and would like to thank all who made submissions to our inquiry. We also visited China, and held meetings in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Lhasa and Tsedang (in the Tibetan Autonomous Region) and Taiwan, where we visited Taipei. Our visit to China was officially hosted by the National People's Congress in Beijing and our programme included meetings with government Ministers and officials, legislators, business people, human rights organisations and religious figures. [8] The information we gathered and discussions we had were extremely useful and are reflected in our Report.

1   Ev 164 [Professor David Shambaugh] Back

2   Ev 112 [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] Back

3   Ev 112 [ Foreign and Commonwealth Office] Back

4   Foreign Affairs Committee, Tenth Report of Session 1999-2000, China, HC 574-I Back

5   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Active Diplomacy for a Changing World: The UK's International Priorities, Cm 6762, March 2006, p 24 Back

6   Ibid, p 28; The addition of a tenth priority, "Achieving climate security by promoting a faster transition to a sustainable, low carbon global economy", was announced by the Foreign Secretary Rt Hon Margaret MP in June (HC Deb, 8 June 2006, col 38WS [Commons written ministerial statement]) Back

7   Mr Ashton has recently been appointed the Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Climate Change (HC Deb, 8 June 2006, col 38WS [Commons written ministerial statement]) Back

8   The programme of our visit is appended to this Report as Annex 2. Back

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Prepared 13 August 2006