The Future of UK-China Relations

The Future of UK-China Relations

Tuesday, 8th September (5pm-6pm)

Having declared the need for a fundamental reset in its relations with China, the UK now stands at a crossroads. It is patently clear that China has not taken a path towards a more liberal, democratic future, and that in many ways, its economic strength enables it to deepen its authoritarian behaviour at home, and its confidence in advancing its interests in its region and beyond. Its behaviour during the pandemic, its incursions towards Hong Kong, and starting new revelations around its treatment of the Uighur people have compelled a more muscular response from Britain and our allies. Yet, China’s economic might, and its centrality to global challenges such as climate change, render some form of engagement necessary.

In a provocative and robust debate, this British Foreign Policy Group event considered how best to approach the resetting of relations with China, how we should make sense of its motivations, how to build stronger resilience in our systems, and where we can realistically expect to influence.


Tom Tugendhat MBE MP is the MP for Tonbridge and Malling, and the Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. A fluent Arabic speaker, Tom served in the British Army until July 2013. In his decorated military and intelligence career, he served on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and, most recently, as the military assistant and principal adviser to the Chief of the Defence Staff. In 2015, he was elected as the Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling. In July 2017, Tom was elected as the youngest-ever Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and was reappointed by his Commons peers to the position in January 2020.

Cindy Yu is a China reporter and broadcast editor at the Spectator. She hosts the Spectator’s fortnightly Chinese Whispers podcast. Born and raised in Nanjing, China, she then read PPE at the University of Oxford, where she also read for a masters in Contemporary Chinese Studies. Her research specialised on Chinese political propaganda and modern youth opinion. She lived and worked in Hong Kong for five weeks in the summer of 2015.

Professor Rana Mitter OBE is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and the Director of the University China Centre at the University of Oxford, and a renowned author and commentator about contemporary issues pertaining to China’s rise and the growing nationalism within China. He is the author of several books, including ‘Modern China: A Very Short Introduction’ (2008, new ed. 2016), and the award-winning ‘A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World’ (2004). His most recent book, ‘China’s War with Japan, 1937-45: The Struggle for Survival’ (US title: Forgotten Ally), was named as a 2013 Book of the Year in the Financial Times and the Economist, was named a 2014 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, and won the 2014 RUSI/Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature.

Sophia Gaston is the Director of the British Foreign Policy Group and the author, with Professor Mitter, of a major new study – ‘After the Golden Age: Resetting UK-China Relations’. A social and political researcher specialising in public opinion, her research particularly explores populism, nationalism and the rise of anti-establishment movements, as well as broader threats to governance in Western nations. Through the British Foreign Policy Group, she works to highlight the domestic social and political origins of the destabilising forces in the international world order. She has previously worked for government in Australia on a range of policy areas, including on political engagement with Chinese officials and the Chinese diaspora.

The British Foreign Policy Group recently published a major new research report titled, ‘After the Golden Age: Resetting UK-China Relations’, authored by Sophia Gaston and Professor Rana Mitter. It is available to download here.



Matt Gillow

Matt is the Communications & Events Manager at the British Foreign Policy Group.