China and the Rules-Based International System Contents

1Introduction

1.This inquiry was established to explore the implications for UK foreign policy of China’s growing role in the rules-based international system. It began from a recognition that the United Kingdom’s relationship with China is of special importance to British interests, and is a key issue in debates about post-Brexit foreign policy. Our intention was not simply to examine the Sino-British bilateral relationship; instead, we sought to understand China’s approach to international laws, norms, rules and institutions, and in turn to understand what this means for the UK. Likewise, our intention was not simply to analyse and comment on China’s domestic affairs in their own right; instead, we sought to examine the link between China’s domestic political, social and economic governance, on the one hand, and its foreign policy, on the other.

2.We launched our inquiry on 21 November 2017.1 Our predecessor Committee in the previous Parliament had launched an inquiry into UK–China relations which was interrupted by the 2017 general election. Ours was a separate inquiry, but we were able to refer to evidence submitted to the previous inquiry. We would like to thank Mike Gapes MP and Ian Austin MP, two former Members of the Committee, who contributed hugely to this inquiry. We appointed two specialist advisers, Professor Katherine Morton (Chair of China’s International Relations at the University of Sheffield),2 and Charles Parton OBE (Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and a former British diplomat).3 We would like to thank our advisers for their excellent work in support of this inquiry.

3.After receiving and considering written evidence, we held five oral evidence sessions. The first, in March 2018, examined China’s engagement with the international economic order. We heard from Dr Jan Knoerich, Lecturer in the Economy of China at King’s College London; Dr Yuka Kobayashi, Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in China and International Politics at SOAS, University of London; and George Magnus, Associate at the University of Oxford China Centre and Research Associate at SOAS. Our second evidence session, in October 2018, explored China’s regional relationships. We spoke to Nigel Inkster, Senior Adviser at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS); Shashank Joshi, Defence Editor of The Economist; and Helena Legarda, Research Associate at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS). In our third session, in November 2018, we took evidence from the Hon. Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Australia and President of the Asia Society Policy Institute. Our fourth session, on 8 January 2019, covered the ways in which China’s domestic affairs interact with its foreign policy, as well as the present status and future of Hong Kong, including the UK’s role as a signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration. We heard from the Rt Hon. the Lord Patten of Barnes CH, former Governor of Hong Kong; Professor Eva Pils, Professor of Law at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London; Paul Roseby OBE, CEO and Artistic Director of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain; Professor Steve Tsang, Director of the SOAS China Institute; and Professor Sebastian Veg, Professor of Intellectual History and Literature of 20th Century China at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris. In our final session, on 15 January 2019, we questioned the Minister for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Rt Hon Mark Field MP, about UK policy towards China.4 We are most grateful to all our witnesses, and to all those who submitted written evidence, for their contributions to this inquiry.

4.From 16–22 September 2018, between our first and second evidence sessions, we visited Beijing and Hong Kong.5 We travelled to China on the invitation of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China. We were graciously hosted in Beijing by Zhang Yesui, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, and in Hong Kong by Ip Kin-Yuen, Chair of the Parliamentary Liaison Sub-Committee of the Legislative Council. We would like to express our sincere thanks to our counterpart Committees for their kindness and hospitality. We would also like to thank all those we met in Beijing and Hong Kong for their thoughtful and productive contributions. We also express our sincere gratitude to the Ambassador and staff of the British Embassy in Beijing, and the Consul-General and staff of the British Consulate General in Hong Kong, for their professionalism and considerable effort in facilitating our visit.


1 For the inquiry’s terms of reference, see New inquiry: China and the international rules-based system, Foreign Affairs Committee, 21 November 2017

2 Katherine Morton made the following declaration of interests: My current academic work is not externally funded. I am an Associate Fellow of Chatham House (unpaid). Other interests: Keynote Address on “Can China Lead? Governing Security Risks along the Belt and Road”, European University Institute, Florence, 13 December 2017 (travel expenses and honorarium). Keynote Address on “Maritime Security” to British military officers under the Ministry of Defence training programme at Bradford University, 20 April 2018 (travel expenses and honorarium). Keynote Address on “China and Foreign Policy” to the Open Society Foundation, London, 23 April 2018 (travel expenses and honorarium). Track II dialogue on “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” with the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and Chatham House, 14 June 2018 (travel expenses only). “The Regional Balance of Power” and “The Belt and Road Initiative”, guest lectures at the ToChina Summer School, University of Torino, 27–28 June 2018 (travel expenses and honorarium). Conference Speaker, “China”, Global Horizons, Oxford Analytica Annual Conference 2018, 19–21 September 2018 (travel expenses and honorarium). “China’s Global Ambitions in the Age of Xi Jinping: Multiple Future Scenarios”, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Italy, 1–3 October 2018 (travel expenses and honorarium). “China and Global Leadership” and “Maritime Security” at International Symposium on Chinese Strategies, University of Vienna, Austria, 18–19 October 2018 (travel expenses and honorarium). Distinguished Speaker, “US–China Strategic Relations”, UK–France Strategic Military Forum, Royal College of Defence Studies, 24 October 2018 (travel expenses and honorarium). I have been awarded the Visiting Schwarzman Boeing Chair in International Relations. Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University (unpaid leave from current position for academic year 2019/20)

3 Charles Parton made the following declaration of interests: Director of my own consultancy company China Ink, which provides advice on the implications of China’s politics to businesses and other organisations. London Director of China Policy, a Beijing based research and analysis company, which provides briefs and reports to companies and organisations on developments in a number of economic, financial, social and political sectors. Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). Other interests: RUSI paper on China and the UK (paid). Trustee of Chinadialogue, an organisation which works on environmental questions in China. Chatham House article on China and the use of big data, artificial intelligence and recognition systems in the control of society (paid). Great Britain China Centre lecture on China’s domestic politics (paid). Jamestown Foundation conference on Chinese interference in Europe (travel expenses). Speaking at Centra Technology Washington conference on Chinese interference (fee and travel expenses). Leading Royal College of Defence Studies session on Chinese domestic politics (paid). Speaking at FCO conference in Shenzhen on environmental issues funded by UK, Australian, Netherlands and Norwegian consulates, Chinese commercial sponsors and Shenzhen trade promotion body (travel expenses and accommodation). Paid and unpaid lecturing for universities and schools on Chinese politics. Speaking on China to Tonbridge School parents association (paid). BBC disturbance fees for appearing on World Service and Today programmes. Flight and two nights’ hotel paid by Finnish MFA to take part in discussions on China. Flights to London–Canberra–Sydney–Wellington–Melbourne–London, and 9 nights’ hotel and meals paid by British High Commissions in Canberra and Wellington as part of discussion programme with Australian and New Zealand governments and think tanks. Guidepoint: paid talk on China commissioned by Jeffries Group.

4 Mr Field was accompanied by James Kariuki, Multilateral Policy Director, FCO; and Kate White, Asia Pacific Director, FCO.

5 In Beijing, we met officials and legislators including Wang Chen, Member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress; Zhang Yesui, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, and members of the Committee; Guo Yezhou, Vice Minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China; Li Junhua, Director General of the Department of International Organisations and Conferences at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Gou Haibo, Special Representative for Climate Change Negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We met think-tank and academic researchers, including Yi Peng, President of the Pangoal Institution; Long Guoqiang, Vice-President of the Development Research Center of the State Council; Zhang Xiaoqiang, Executive Vice-Chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges; and Wang Dong, Associate Professor in the School of International Studies at Peking University. We also spoke to business leaders, NGO representatives and journalists, as well as representatives of international organisations based in Beijing, and held a Q&A session with students at Peking University. In Hong Kong, we met Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Edward Yau, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development; and Patrick Nip, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs. We met legislators including Andrew Leung, President of the Legislative Council; Ip Kin-Yuen, Chair of the Parliamentary Liaison Sub-Committee, and members of the Sub-Committee. We also convened meetings and roundtables with business leaders, lawyers and legal experts, journalists, academics, and other members of Hong Kong civil society.




Published: 4 April 2019