UK to Explore Self Sufficiency to End Reliance on China

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The British government will make plans to reduce the United Kingdom’s reliance on imports from foreign countries like China after a study revealed that the UK is reliant on the communist country for the supply of 71 “critical goods” including pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment (PPE), and electronics.

Headed by Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab, codename “Project Defend” will examine the resilience of the UK’s economy and supply chain vulnerabilities of “essential supplies” strategic for national security.

One of the two Whitehall groups conducting the review will look into what the UK needs to do to bolster “onshore” supplies production, such as chemical components for drugs, with the government even considering intervening to “repatriate” essential manufacturing.

“The way China has been acting has really alarmed people in Downing Street,” one source told The Times. 

Another insider told the newspaper of record: “We’re seeing resilience as a national security issue. If we are reliant on other states for particular things that is, in effect, a national security concern. The question is how can you mitigate that? You’ve got an awful lot of national security people working into these kinds of things.”

The UK struggled to obtain coronavirus testing kits for the Chinese virus, as well as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), with the production of these items being outsourced overseas in recent decades, including to China. Even with purchasing the desperately-needed items from China, many European nations found the Chinese imports faulty and even potentially deadly.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who takes a hard line on Chinese dominance, warned in March that coronavirus exposes Western countries’ reliance on the oppressive communist country for their strategic supply chains.

Earlier this month, a report by the Henry Jackson Society revealed that the UK is dependent on China in its supply chains for 71 “critical goods” categories including electronics, chemicals, and drugs essential for producing anti-viral drugs and antibiotics. Between 80 and 90 per cent of the UK’s drugs production relies on foreign imports.

The government has been coming under mounting pressure from its own MPs to reduce dependence on China as well as to cut ties with Chinese government-backed firm Huawei, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in January could be involved in developing the UK’s 5G network. The move was condemned by intelligence partners and British politicians who warned it could threaten security and even endanger relations between the Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America) and trading partners.

Conservative MPs have also warned that China is going to use the economic crisis caused by its coronavirus to swoop in and buy struggling British technology companies.

On Wednesday during Prime Minister’s Questions, Tory MP for South Dorset Richard Drax asked Mr Johnson if the UK would follow France and conduct a “root and branch review” of the defence supply chain, following French concerns that China is buying up defence-rated companies that are going bust during the pandemic. Mr Drax also asked whether the prime minister is considering rowing back on his Huawei decision.

While failing to answer the question on the Chinese tech giant directly, Mr Johnson said: “We are certainly bringing forward measures to ensure that we protect our technological base. [The defence committee will] be hearing a lot more about that in the next few weeks.”

A YouGov poll from May 19th found that nearly half, 47 per cent, of Britons saw the prospect of China becoming a superpower “more of a threat” to Britain, with just 11 per cent thinking it could represent an “opportunity” (22 per cent responded “neither”, 20 per cent “don’t know”).

While Britons, on the whole, appear sceptical of China’s motives on the world stage, they also in the majority back the communist country facing a lawsuit for covering up the dangers presented by the Wuhan-born COVID-19 in the early weeks of the outbreak.

When the Henry Jackson Society said in April that Western countries should sue China for compensation, 71 per cent of Britons agreed with 74 per cent blaming China for the spread of the deadly virus.

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