A coalition of lawmakers from eight countries has initiated a new cross-parliamentary alliance aimed at challenging what they argue is the threat posed by China’s growing influence.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China - made up of representatives from the UK, Japan, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Australia, the European Union and the United States - has argued that international cooperation between them is necessary in order to combat what they say is the threat to democratic values presented by Beijing.
In a statement, the group said that it aims to, “construct appropriate and coordinated responses, and to help craft a proactive and strategic response on issues related to the People’s Republic of China.”
The group’s co-chairs are made up of, among others, US Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, former Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, European Parliament foreign affairs committee member Miriam Lexmann and well-known UK Conservative member of parliament Iain Duncan Smith.
“The time has come for democratic countries to unite in a common defence of our shared values. Delighted to be co-chairing the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China,” Tweeted Duncan Smith.
The time has come for democratic countries to unite in a common defence of our shared values. Delighted to be co-chairing the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China @ipacglobal #IPAC https://t.co/Rz2hQvTurl— Iain Duncan Smith MP (@MPIainDS) June 5, 2020
In a video statement put out by the group, they declare that, “China, under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party represents a global challenge. One which will define the next century. It is a challenge which touches all of us. This challenge will outlast governments and administrations and it transcends party politics. What we once believed about China’s rise, no longer corresponds to reality. We thought China would open up over time. This hasn’t happened.”
A senior Chinese diplomat dismissed the move in a statement to the BBC, saying that it represents, “a misinterpretation of China’s foreign policy and a misreading of the current world situation. China is a force for positive change.”
The formation of the alliance comes at a critical juncture in international relations between China and a number of Western countries.
Most recently, the UK government has pledged to offer a route to citizenship for passport holders in Hong Kong if China does not suspend plans for a security law that aims to prevent widespread protests in the territory.
In a statement after the Chinese government proposed the national security law, UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, issued a statement saying that, “if China imposes this law, we will explore options to allow British Nationals overseas to apply for leave to stay in the UK, including a path to citizenship. We will continue to defend the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.”
China, in response, accused the UK of “gross interference” in the country’s affairs and called for London to “step back… otherwise there will be consequences.”
Furthermore, lawmakers from Australia, the US, UK and EU have become increasingly vocal about the need to establish and international investigation into China’s handling of the coronavirus. The Trump administration has, on numerous occasions, said that it is in possession of evidence suggesting the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
A raft of other security-related issues, such as territorial disputes over islands in the South China Sea between Beijing and its southeast Asian neighbours, as well as the ongoing Senkaku-Diaoyu island dispute with Japan, have kept tensions simmering in the Asia Pacific region.
The US has also lead a global quest to lobby its allies to refuse China permission to build 5G telecommunications equipment in their countries, arguing that doing so would risk allowing Beijing access to sensitive national security data. Most recently, Mike Pompeo threatened that if Australia allowed Beijing to build 5G networks on its territory, then the US would “simply disconnect” from Canberra.
In response, Beijing has accused the Trump administration of pushing the two countries toward a “new cold war.”
“China has no intention to change, still less replace the United States,” China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, previously said.
“It’s time for the United States to give up its wishful thinking of changing China and stopping 1.4 billion people on their historic march toward modernisation,” he added.