China-Taiwan tensions at a point 'not seen in years' says expert
Australia signed a free trade agreement with China in 2015. Since that time it has become increasingly economically dependent on Beijing, as nearly two-thirds of Australia’s exports go to China. Australia discovered the risks to sovereignty of being overly reliant on exports to China when it questioned Beijing’s initial response to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
The nation found itself punished with crippling tariffs for questioning China’s coronavirus response and for supporting democracy in Hong Kong.
A free trade agreement between the UK and China post-Brexit could be a financial lifeline for Britain’s export economy, but such a deal would have consequences similar to those experienced by Australia.
A leading UK academic, Professor Steve Tsang of SOAS University China Institute said: “China will not hesitate to do to the UK what it has done to Australia.”
However, he did explain the UK “will not be as vulnerable as Australia”.
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He added: “The UK will not be as exposed and dependent on China as a trading partner as Australia.
“So China’s threat to punish will not hurt that much.”
A report from Bruegel university recently suggested that a trade deal between Britain and China would “not be clearly advantageous for the UK”.
Professor Steve Tsang of SOAS University also stated how “a trade deal with China will need to be clearly beneficial to China for it to be agreeable to China.
“There is no chance of one that may be marginally more beneficial to the UK.”
However, the Chinese state media outlet The Global Times has argued that a post-Brexit free trade agreement between Britain and China is “essential for the UK”.
The tabloid explains how China is at the heart of the entire Asian industrial chain and if Britain is attempting to make trade deals with other nation’s in the region it will have to create a deal with China.
This is because many commodities produced in Asia have components that originate in Chinese factories.
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The Global Times stated: “Many commodities produced by the regional industrial chain may not be subject to a free trade deal due to the rule of origin, which usually requires goods to be entirely produced in one of the participating countries or have a minimum percentage of its value produced there.
“As such, a free trade arrangement with China is essential for the UK.”
However, if the UK is hoping to make a free-trade agreement with China, Beijing has warned that China has “bottom lines that cannot be touched”.
Many fear that China would expect the UK to abide by certain conditions to make a trade deal a reality.
Beijing could insist on Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G infrastructure.
The politburo in Beijing may also seek to have the UK make a commitment to ignore human rights abuses and attacks on democratic principles in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
When asked if China would demand the UK disengage from its support for Taiwan, and democracy and human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Professor Steve Tsang said: “Any or all of them may well be required by China, in the formulation that China expects and requires its trading partners to be friendly to China, and for any country to raise issues over Hong Kong, Xinjiang or Taiwan will be deemed as hostile by China.”
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