Something remarkable happened yesterday. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, having arrived in the UK the evening before, chose to meet a group of MPs before holding talks with the Government. Even more remarkable was the fact that the MPs and members of the House of Lords were drawn not just from the Conservative ranks, but also from Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP. The issue that had brought everyone together was China.
Britain is a world leader in many areas. One of the big social reforms of recent years has been a more robust approach to slavery based on a historic piece of legislation, itself was born of a 2013 report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) called ‘It Happens Here’.
The UK’s dependence on China for products and, worryingly, the systems on which we rely and which in time will run so much of our lives is only now becoming apparent. I can recall only too well how the Cameron government made the strategic decision to look to China across a range of areas, calling this the "golden era" while concerns about the political direction of China under President Xi Jinping were carefully glossed over.
The Communist Party of China has passed a National Security Law for Hong Kong, which stands in direct violation of its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong government's commitments as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
China, we all know, is run by an autocratic, dictatorial regime which brooks no dissent and is highly secretive about the problems and challenges the country faces. That has been the case for very many years. However, although its behaviour does seem to be getting worse, logic would nevertheless still dictate that when faced with the outbreak of a novel disease the Chinese government would work hard to contain it. That was certainly the case in 2002, when China responded to Sars by working with the World Health Organisation to bring the disease under control.
This lockdown has been successful at saving lives and reducing the infection rate and spread of the virus. In doing this, the government has taken the right decision to implement it in full. Yet there is no escaping the vital point that it has come with a heavy yet understandable economic cost.