An apology would go further than handing over HS2


Destroying the Chinese war junks in the battle of Amoy 1841

Destroying the Chinese war junks in the battle of Amoy 1841

The Cameron trade trip to China risked being overshadowed by his kowtowing to the Chinese by offering HS2.  He would have been better off apologising for the Opium Wars.

First, the history; the first Opium war was initiated by the then Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, in pursuit of full compensation for the destroyed Opium which was grown in British controlled India and illegally exported to China. As a result of gun boat diplomacy, China was forced to open five ports to foreign merchants and give territorial concession to Hong Kong.

 There were of course other British politicians of the day like William Gladstone who denounced Lord Palmerston’s willingness to protect this infamous contraband traffic. Palmerston was clearly protecting the right of British companies to export such goods, while naturally, China wanted the right to stop them becoming the social menace they subsequently become in Chinese society.  The rest they say is history.

One may ask as l did on my first trip to Beijing & the Summer Palace, why should the Communists of today in China still be concerned by this great loss of face for the Qing dynasty? Well, nationalism is still a very strongly held sentiment in China and the Communist Party of China has since its early beginnings harnessed this sense well in defence of the country.

My suspicions all along is that an apology for this done, incidentally in the name of free trade, would be the best way to open up the Chinese market in a much bigger way than the trade delegation could ever achieve as it passes through Beijing at present.

While some suggest we should beware of the Chinese bearing gifts because of their track record over safety and the ecological impact of their own high speed trains, the reality is that it is the Prime Minister who is egging on such deals with their involvement in HS2 as he made his bold claim that “an open Britain is the ideal partner for an opening China” attempting to fund new British infrastructure through foreign investment rather than any public investment. This is on top of already giving an expensive nuclear subsidy deal to Chinese investors undertaken by the government Department for Energy & Climate Change. Remember he had already sent out his Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Energy Secretary Ed Davey to sell these wares to the People’s Republic.

There is also the question about whether the UK is truly open for Chinese business anyway, by for example asking the Chinese businesses in the West End? Well quite honestly they still feel aggrieved by the stark contrast of the last official trade delegation to China which was headed by the Chancellor and the Mayor of London wooing Chinese businesses, whilst here in Britain, Chinese restaurant businesses were being raided by the UK Border Agency.

Clearly the left hand of government did not know what the right hand was doing as the Treasury and the Home Office (helped by the Mayor) sent over some very mixed messages about Chinese businesses in London.  The former suggested it would make it easier for the Chinese to get visas into London while the latter targeted Chinese restaurants in an operation to root out illegal immigrants.  Also, has anyone else notice the conspicuous lack of Chinese faces amongst the Prime Minister’s Trade delegation – a poultry one out of the entire delegation!

It is clear to me there is much emotional capital to be gained by the offer of an apology for past deeds.  An apology would also help distinguish us from the plethora of other powerful nations vowing for Chinese investment as we lag behind both France and Germany in these stakes.  Sentiment and history are important values in Chinese societies and an apology would I believe prise open the trade door more than any offerings of nuclear power & HS2 investment opportunities could ever do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *