What the spy saga reveals about UK-China relations


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Good morning. Thanks so much for your very kind emails and the landslide endorsement for The Bear. The other repeated refrain was “but how much does this spy story actually matter, politically?” Some thoughts on the latter below.

Inside Politics is edited today by Darren Dodd. Follow Stephen on X @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to [email protected]

Spy like you mean it

Here’s a composite version of an email a lot of you sent me yesterday:

While I understand why this story is politically difficult for Rishi Sunak, it’s much ado about nothing, isn’t it? Of course there are high level spies working for the Chinese state in Westminster. I hope we have spies in China! How should this really shape the fundamentals of China policy?

To which the answer is, well, yes and no. I agree that, bluntly, it would raise serious questions about what the British state does if the UK didn’t also have spies in China, and vice versa.

In many ways, that these charges — which the researcher in question denies — have been brought already reflect a broader change in the UK’s China policy. There are some states where, if you catch one of their spies you quietly tell their government to relocate them. Then there are other states where you make a lot of noise about it and arrest the person in question.

And “all” that has happened is that China has moved from the first group of states to the second. But that’s quite a big “all”, because the inevitable consequence of this arrest, as this excellent piece by Lucy Fisher, Yuan Yang and John Paul Rathbone details, is further demands for greater distance in the UK-China relationship.

On the subject of China more broadly, I’m very much looking forward to listening along to our next subscriber webinar, on China’s economic slowdown, and what it means for China and the world, tomorrow at 12:30pm. Register here!

Now try this

This week, I mostly listened to Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” while writing my column.

Top stories today

  • Wage growth | UK wages continued growing at the fastest pace on record in the three months to July, despite a weaker jobs market in which unemployment has risen and hiring slowed, official data showed. The annual growth in average pay, excluding bonuses, remained at 7.8 per cent — the highest rate since comparable records began in 2001.

  • Social mobility | The UK’s younger generation is in danger of being worse off than its predecessors, according to the government’s social mobility chief.

  • Union threat | Delegates at the Trades Union Congress voted to resist contentious new anti-strike laws that require some employees in sensitive public services to keep working during industrial action. 

  • Rate debate | Catherine Mann, one of the Bank of England’s more hawkish policymakers, indicated that interest rates should rise further, arguing that the central bank needed to do more to ensure tighter monetary policy was working.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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