Leading article: Mr Hague sets the tone

Share
Related Topics

Fresh from from his agenda-setting speech on British foreign policy, William Hague is midway through a trip to China and Japan designed to prepare the way for the Prime Minister's visit in the autumn and put the new Government on the map of the region's two largest economies. It is hard not to feel that he faces an uphill struggle.

The financial crisis left China and other Asian economies with a sense of superiority. For the US and Britain, there can be no more preaching the advantages of the so-called Anglo-Saxon model; there must be due humility. In his speech two weeks ago, Mr Hague stressed the way economic power is shifting to the emerging powers, including China, producing opportunities that Britain needed to be agile enough to exploit. He also made clear, as did David Cameron in a recent address to British ambassadors, that he wanted promoting business to be an even bigger component of British diplomacy than it already is. Prompting an irritated riposte from his predecessor, Mr Hague also claimed that UK diplomacy had neglected China.

Yet rectifying that will not be easy. Britain's clout is limited. There may be potential for increased trade, but the trade there is overwhelmingly in China's favour, despite the fall in sterling. The one area in which the money goes the other way is education, with 85,000 Chinese studying in Britain or at British campuses in China. But cuts in higher education here and visa restrictions on non-EU nationals threaten this success.

Human rights are another difficult area. Meeting his counterpart in Beijing yesterday, Mr Hague quite rightly expressed concern about Tibet. But there are many other areas, too, where Beijing's record falls short: its network of prison camps, resort to the death penalty, limits on freedom of expression and persecution of the Falun Gong and other groups. Britain should not pass over China's faults, for all its future economic promise.

In apparent contradiction to his reputation as a Eurosceptic, Mr Hague has said Britain must be more adept in EU politics. Germany has shown how an advanced manufacturing and exporting country can benefit from China's rise. As it happened, Chancellor Merkel was also in Beijing yesterday, with a large German trade delegation, illustrating the difference in scale between its trade relations with China and our own. If Mr Hague is serious about Britain becoming a more significant player in Europe, a coordinated EU-China policy would be a good place to start.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?