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Foreign Secretary Believes China Would "Collapse" Its Economy If It Invaded Taiwan

James Cleverly spoke to a packed fringe event at conference on Monday (PoliticsHome)

3 min read

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned that if China invaded Taiwan it could "collapse" the Chinese economy, but insisted the UK has huge influence in the attempt to curb the power of China.

Speaking at a Conservative party conference fringe event hosted by the Spectator, the foreign secretary said China is paying close attention to the economic impact of Western countries scaling down trade with the country. 

"Disruption to the movement of key countries, key bits of the componentry of modern life, it would be catastrophic for the global economy and it would be a catastrophically bad thing for the Chinese economy," he said.

"It would collapse the Chinese economy and we are now seeing the Chinese economy is not all powerful and their economic dominance is not inevitable." 

The foreign secretary told the crowded conference room that "disruption across the Taiwan Strait is everyone's business" and described how his controversial meeting with China's Vice President Han Zheng in August had shown him how much the UK can influence China's decision making. 

"We [Western countries] are all taking measures which are just nudging down on trade volumes with China and the cumulative effects is having a real impact on China," he explained.

"And when I had that discussion, [Han Zheng] listened very, very closely, his officials were looking very intense."

Responding to criticism that visiting the country made the UK appear too soft, Cleverly said: "Foreign secretary flies to foreign countries to have meetings' should not be controversial."

"Diplomacy and foreign affairs is not just about reacting to events," he explained.

"It's about steering events. We're not just blown around by the winds of circumstance. We make the weather and preventing that outcome [the invasion of the Taiwan Strait] is at the absolute core of UK Foreign Policy in the Pacific."

Some 'hawkish' critics, including former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, have accused the government of taking a "wishy washy" stance on China as it refuses to classify the country as a "threat".

Cleverly, however, insisted that the UK has actually "toughened up" it's approach in the last year.

"Actually, we have toughened our stance on small investment from China, we have toughened our protection of freedom of speech and freedom and liberty on university campuses, we've been taking practical measures to protect ourselves against all forms of foreign interference," he said.

"So the practical measures we have toughened up and if people assume that the being less confrontational publicly is a softening position, they are missing the areas where they should focus on."

In an interview with The House magazine in the run up to conference, Cleverly said he agrees with secretary of the treasury Janet Yellen’s comments that the world is “big enough” for both China and the US “to thrive” – as well as the UK. 

At the Spectator event, the foreign secretary confirmed he would not be joining the Chinese-owned platform TikTok any time soon, despite some of his cabinet colleagues, such as Grant Shapps, remaining on the app despite a ban on government devices earlier this year due to security concerns. 

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