British PM Sunak Says ‘Golden Era’ With China Over

    Photo: Reuters [via Al Jazeera]

    The Facts

    • In his first major foreign policy speech, British PM Rishi Sunak said on Monday that the so-called "golden era" of UK-China relations is over, and called the idea that trade would lead to social and political reform in China "naive."

    • He criticized Beijing's handling of recent protests against its "zero covid" policy, which saw a BBC journalist detained and allegedly assaulted by the police. While admitting that China's importance in global affairs couldn't be ignored, he said that Beijing still poses a "systematic challenge" to Britain's "values and interests."

    The Spin

    Pro-establishment narrative

    Despite signaling the end of the "golden era" in relations with China, Sunak refrained from taking an overly aggressive stance toward the country. He is well aware that the UK cannot afford to antagonize China given Britain's current economic crisis. Due to the situation at home, Sunak is more likely to focus on trade, economic stability, and domestic issues than ideology — the more pragmatic and effective option in an increasingly multipolar world.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Sunak's speech has confirmed that the PM is unwilling to take the necessary steps to tackle the entrenched influence of China within the UK. It seems that he mistakenly believes it's possible to appease Pres. Xi and the Chinese regime despite continuing rights abuses and the global alignment of Beijing with Moscow. This fence-straddling approach will only undermine Britain on the world stage and cast doubt on the UK's solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

    Nerd narrative

    There is a 50% chance that China will score at least 5.85 on the Human Freedom Index in 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Public figures in this story

    Establishment split



    More neutral establishment stance articles

    Sign up to our daily newsletter