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UK Plans Less Reliance on Chinese Supplies

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Jane Werrell | New Tang Dynasty

The UK government, lead by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is set to end reliance on Chinese imports for vital supplies, including masks and medicines.

Johnson has instructed officials to draw up plans to diversify its imports of critical goods.

The United States, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—the countries that make up the powerful Five Eyes intelligence community—are strategically dependent on China for a number of critical goods, according to a report (pdf) by Conservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society.

While Johnson is known to historically be in favor of deals with the Chinese regime, he’s facing mounting pressure to toughen his stance.

More than 20 British lawmakers wrote to the UK’s international trade secretary recently, seeking to amend a bill to reduce dependency on critical goods from China, while a new research group has been set up by British politicians to debate policies toward China.

‘Increasingly Authoritarian’

Data from the Mercator Institute for China Studies shows that over the past nine years, China invested more than $55 billion into the UK, the highest of any country in Europe.

In 2018, the UK was the largest European investor into China, as exports in goods and services reached $83.7 billion, according to figures from the UK government.

But for many, hopes that deeper economic ties would lead to political liberalization in China are fading.

“The country has not moved forward with liberalization and democratization to the extent that we hoped, and it has instead moved into a different trajectory, one that is increasingly authoritarian and revisionist,” James Rogers, director of the Global Britain Program at the Henry Jackson Society, told NTD.

Its analysis shows the UK is reliant on China for 57 separate categories of what are classed as critical goods. These include active pharmaceutical ingredients used for painkillers, antibiotics, and antiviral medicines.

Rosemary Gibson, senior adviser at the Hastings Center, said China gained the global dominant share in pharmaceuticals by undercutting and using unfair trade practices, not because their products were better quality.

“We have an unlevel playing field that makes it hard for companies in the UK to compete with Chinese companies because you’re really competing with the Chinese government,” she said. “People want to trust the medicines and personal protective gear coming from China, but its track record is really very, very concerning.”

She added, “The world is dependent on China for thousands and thousands of medicines that are used in hospitals every day including those needed to treat COVID-19.”

Shift in Policy

President Donald Trump recently awarded a new U.S. company a contract to manufacture drugs and pharmaceutical ingredients. It’s a shift to not depend on any one country, like China, for critical supplies.

Plans that the UK government is looking to end its reliance on China could be a sign of a shift in policy.

It follows calls from some prominent politicians from within the ruling Conservative Party that the Chinese state should “face a reckoning” for its handling of the CCP virus pandemic.

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