Letter: Duped by China

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DESPITE the fact that Chinese suppression of political dissent in regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang is increasing year on year, the Government assures us that, rather than backing UN condemnation of such oppression, it is only "constructive engagement" with the People's Republic that will ensure political change.

Most human rights organisations agree that such political appeasement - whether the retention of Most Favoured Nation trading status or the uncoupling of trade from human rights - has a direct and immediate influence on the political climate in China - for the worse.

Our increasing economic involvement in China has given the Communist Party there a large stick with which to beat us, simply because Britain needs China's emerging markets and cheap labour more than China needs Britain's trade. China, not the West, has the upper hand in such "engagement".

As the recent row over Chris Patten's book has demonstrated, it is not China's political climate that is being changed by "constructive engagement", it is ours. We seem increasingly willing to give up our own human-rights principles and restrict our own democratic freedoms, in order to secure an economic foothold in the Middle Kingdom. The Labour Party's political naivety and weakness on this issue is lamentable. The Chinese government must be laughing at us, all the way to the bank.


School of African and Asian Studies

University of Sussex