Over the last month there has been a greater focus on Britain’s relationship with China. This is mainly due to China’s substantial investment in this country and the closer bonds that now exist between the two countries. However the greater prominence China has received in the media has also led to questions about human rights abuses and how much we know about the country that we are dealing with.
China is still a one party state and the government censors and controls the information that is given to citizens. The government continues to crack down hard on any political opponents and there is no sign of a transition to a truly democratic state anytime soon. Their policies towards Tibet are also highly controversial and are very repressive.
It is easy to see why China is considered an attractive ally though for this government and for Britain as a whole. They are the second largest economy in the world, soon to be the first and can bring with them significant investment. This is important to any country and must not be downplayed. Despite these numerous benefits, China still must not be given a free hand on human rights and Britain must not allow China’s considerable economic force to stop valid concerns being raised.
Human rights are universal. We have made great progress across the world in this regard but we still have a long way to go. Regardless of where you are born and what you believe you should be treated equally and with dignity. This is still not the case everywhere in the world. There are many who still face persecution because of what they believe and what they stand for or even where they were born. If we truly care about our fellow human then it can never be acceptable to ignore these abuses regardless of who commits them.
The government has insisted that human rights discussions are very much on the table and that a closer relationship with China gives them more scope to discuss these issues. It is imperative that this is not simply a soundbite but becomes reality. Too many people in China still suffer from great human right tragedies and it will always be our duty to make sure their voices are heard. Quite simply this is something we cannot run from.
The linking of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to Russia raises questions over what Russia may have to gain from a Trump victory in the election later this year.
The answer appears obvious at first. Trump has previously praised Vladimir Putin and has suggested that the United States’ NATO allies will only be able to guarantee American protection by fulfilling their ‘obligations’ to the US under his watch. Such statements further empower Russia and fit in with Trump’s isolationist outlook on foreign policy. Should Trump be given a chance to realise this vision and scale back or withdraw existing American international commitments, it would give Russia a golden opportunity to increase its global influence.
The Russians would also undoubtedly prefer a politically inexperienced Trump to be in the White House come next January. However, the key factor behind why they would find a Trump victory preferable is China. Russia’s recent normalisation of its relations with Turkey showed its desire to continue its aggressive foreign policies of the past few years, as the normalisation allowed it increased freedom to conduct airstrikes in Syria without serious reprisal. This evidences a clear desire from the Russians to expand their influence over Eurasia. China is its biggest rival in this regard with its gargantuan population, and burgeoning economy and military might. Trump’s rhetoric toward China has been markedly confrontational. His foreign policy promises thus far include labelling China as a currency manipulator and bolstering the US military presence in the South China Seas. If successfully enacted, these policies would result in the US and China spending time and resources on countering each other as opposed to Russia.
It cannot be conclusively proven that the Russians are influencing the US election. What has been obvious for a long time however is that international order is returning to a balance of power state with no one state dominant over the international system. The US, China and Russia instead all vie for increased global influence in order to gain an advantage over one another. A Trump victory would seriously affect the balance of power in Russia and China’s favour. All that remains to be seen is whether this possibility will affect the way millions of Americans vote when they go to the polls on November 8th. The pleasing aspect for the Russians and the Chinese is the not inconsiderable possibility that it will not.