UK Huawei decision part of wider strategic tensions with China

  • 13 July 2020
  • From the section China
huawei store in Shanghai Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Tensions over Huawei's 5G network are symptomatic of wider pressures China faces globally

In diplomacy there are words and actions. Rhetoric can often be exchanged without skirmish becoming battle. But hard decisions with real consequences tend to produce tangible responses.

So it may be when Britain announces its much-anticipated plans to restrict further the involvement of the Chinese tech giant, Huawei, in the UK's 5G mobile telecoms network. This is the moment when simmering Sino-British tensions may come to the boil.

Thus far China has made generic threats without being specific. The country's ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming, warned Britain it will have to "bear the consequences" if it treats China as a hostile country. .

Banning Huawei would, he said, damage Britain's reputation as an open, trading nation. It would not be trusted to stick to its word. The world would know the UK had "succumbed to foreign pressure" - he meant the US - and no longer had an independent foreign policy.

But when pushed - both on Huawei and the UK's decision to offer a pathway to citizenship for up to three million Hong Kong residents after China imposed draconian new national security laws - the ambassador declined to say how Beijing might respond. "Wait and see," he said with a glint in his eye that was not altogether cheery.

Long-view diplomacy?

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Political battle looming over UK China relations

  • 23 May 2020
  • From the section UK
Boris Johnson celebrates Chinese New Year in January Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson celebrates Chinese New Year in January

Rare is the day when some vexed foreign question does not grip British politics.

In recent decades there have been the bitter battles over Europe. But now China is taking its place in the corridors of Westminster as the defining external issue de nos jours.

Read full article Political battle looming over UK China relations

UK, Australia & NZ ‘punishing’ Commonwealth Secretariat

  • 19 February 2020
  • From the section UK
Baroness Scotland Image copyright Getty Images

Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland has criticised the UK, Australia and New Zealand for suspending their funding of the body that runs the international organisation, the BBC has learned.

In a confidential letter to diplomats in London, Lady Scotland describes the three countries as using a "big stick" to "punish" the Commonwealth Secretariat over concerns about its financial procedures.

Read full article UK, Australia & NZ ‘punishing’ Commonwealth Secretariat

Cabinet reshuffle: International development and Foreign Office merger?

Dominic Raab Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dominic Raab at a UK-Africa investment summit last month

Beneath the unexpected bloodletting of his cabinet reshuffle, Boris Johnson has quietly but radically reformed the way his ministers will handle foreign affairs.

For the prime minister has decided that every single junior Foreign Office minister will also be a joint minister with the Department for International Development.

Read full article Cabinet reshuffle: International development and Foreign Office merger?

US-UK relations: Is London toughening its stance with Washington?

  • 24 January 2020
  • From the section UK
Boris Johnson and Donald Trump shake hands Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption UK officials insist that there is no deliberate attempt to pick a fight with the US

For years, much tosh has been spoken about the so-called special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.

The two countries are allies of long-standing with shared values, history and language. Both have shed much blood and treasure together in defence of freedom. The beaches of Normandy bear witness to that.

Read full article US-UK relations: Is London toughening its stance with Washington?

Iran attack: How much influence does UK have in US-Iran crisis?

  • 8 January 2020
  • From the section UK
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives in Downing Street London, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson assembled key ministers to discuss the spiralling crisis in the Middle East following the US's assassination of Iran's top military leader. Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives in Downing Street for talks on the US-Iran crisis

There is an old joke in diplomatic circles that Iran is the last country in the world that still thinks the United Kingdom is a great power.

So it was no surprise when on Tuesday Rob Macaire, the UK ambassador to Iran, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Tehran to be hauled over the coals after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani.

Read full article Iran attack: How much influence does UK have in US-Iran crisis?

What will the end of oil dependence mean for geopolitics?

  • 3 January 2020
  • From the section World
A picture of solar panels at the Gemasolar energy plant in southern Spain
Image caption Solar power is one form of renewable energy that is replacing fossil fuels

If you want to understand the revolution taking place in renewable energy, come to a power station called Gemasolar in southern Spain.

Here, in the dusty plains of Andalusia, they have worked out how to generate solar power 24 hours a day.

Read full article What will the end of oil dependence mean for geopolitics?

Six foreign policy issues the UK's new PM will face

Boris Johnson (left) and Jeremy Hunt during the BBC Conservative Leadership televised debate on June 18, 2019

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are fighting to take over from Theresa May as the leader of the Conservative Party and the UK's next prime minister.

Central to the contest is an interpretation of what may or may not happen on 31 October, when Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union.

Read full article Six foreign policy issues the UK's new PM will face

Commonwealth Secretariat in 'urgent need' of reform

  • 13 June 2019
  • From the section UK
Commonwealth boss Lady Scotland Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Commonwealth Secretariat, run by Lady Scotland, is the organisation's main intergovernmental agency, facilitating cooperation among member governments

The Commonwealth Secretariat, the body that manages the international organisation in London, is in "urgent need" of reform, according to a leaked internal report obtained by the BBC.

It says there are "deep concerns" about the governance structures of the secretariat which "lacks clarity" in its priorities and needs to be "more transparent and accountable". It adds there is a "serious and urgent need" to stabilise the body's funding.

Read full article Commonwealth Secretariat in 'urgent need' of reform

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: What will diplomatic protection mean for her?

  • 7 March 2019
  • From the section UK
Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe denies the charge of plotting against the Iranian government

The decision by the British government to give Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe formal diplomatic protection marks a significant escalation in the UK's campaign to secure the release of the British-Iranian dual national who is detained in Tehran.

It is an extremely rare diplomatic and legal move that signals the UK is no longer treating the case as a consular matter but a formal, legal dispute between Britain and Iran.

Read full article Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: What will diplomatic protection mean for her?