After the Golden Age: Resetting UK-China Engagement

This report from the British Foreign Policy Group calls for a fundamental reset in the UK’s relations with China, and sets out a conceptual framework for the British Government to develop a UK-China Engagement Strategy.

Co-authored by Sophia Gaston, Director of the British Foreign Policy Group, and Rana Mitter OBE, Director of the Oxford University China Centre, the report explores the ways in which the UK state, businesses, education institutions and citizens will need to strengthen their resilience to China’s influence and potential incursions, while also setting out the productive forms of engagement that could continue to flourish between Britain and China in the future.

The report covers a wide range of themes, including:

  • The shape and scope of the future economic and trading relationship
  • Building a greater degree of resilience in the UK’s infrastructure, supply chains, and higher education sector, as well as agricultural, intellectual property and research security 
  • The UK’s capacity to influence on key moral issues, such as Hong Kong, the Uighur people, and incursions into the South China Sea
  • How public opinion towards China has been evolving in Britain, and the consequences of this for building public consent for UK-China relations
  • Deepening knowledge of China’s history, society, and its strategic objectives within the UK Government and amongst its people, and strengthening relations with the Chinese diaspora in the UK


It addresses the question of UK-China engagement in the context of the Global Britain project, the shifting world order, and the UK’s evolving relations with its international allies and strategic rivals. In particular, it looks at what the UK can learn from the experiences of Australia, as its deepening economic relationship with China has ceded political and national security vulnerabilities. 

The report’s primary objective is to help to build a more constructive, informed and realistic form of engagement with China – a nation whose interests and values will often continue to diverge from our own. It seeks to chart a better balance between complacency and paranoia – frankly assessing the risks posed by the Chinese authoritarian state to the United Kingdom’s security and sovereignty, and to the democratic world order, while also better highlighting the areas where economic, diplomatic and education partnerships could reap mutual benefits. 

Sophia Gaston

Sophia is the Director of the British Foreign Policy Group.