Britain must cut its economic reliance on China after the “wake-up call” from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Labour shadow Chancellor has warned.
Rachel Reeves said measures need to be put in place to protect the UK’s national security and intellectual property after the country developed a “really worrying” dependence on China.
“We are overly reliant on countries that don't share our values for our basic needs and, as with Russia, you can find that things can be turned off,” she told The Telegraph.
“We must also make sure that there are provisions in place in a way that there haven't been to protect our national security and also to protect our intellectual property.”
Ms Reeves drew parallels between Britain’s reliance on China and its dependence on energy from Russia, saying that Covid and the war in Ukraine were a “wake-up call that we’ve got to become more resilient as an economy”.
She said: “The reason why Russia seeks to put the West over a barrel is because we're so reliant on imported gas and oil. It’s the same with the Middle East and same with China.”
Ms Reeves insisted it “doesn't mean cutting off all links” with China but added that the “first thing we’ve got to do is protect our national security”.
It marks a further hardening of Labour’s rhetoric on Beijing. The last Labour government under Gordon Brown sought to boost economic ties with China but the party has taken a tougher stance in recent years as relations with the West have deteriorated.
Rishi Sunak had been accused of trying to foster closer economic ties when he was Chancellor. However, the Prime Minister declared last month that the golden era of UK-China relations had ended amid pressure from hawkish Conservative backbenchers.
He said that it is a “naïve idea” that trade between China and the West would “automatically lead to social and political reform” in the country.
Ms Reeves made the comments at an event in Canary Wharf where the shadow chancellor and Sir Keir Starmer were on a charm offensive with City chiefs at Labour’s business conference. At the event the Labour leader and shadow Chancellor ruled out any windfall tax on bank profits, which are being boosted by higher interest rates.