China's belt and road to nowhere

20 April 2021

1:26 AM

20 April 2021

1:26 AM

Sinoscepticism is on the rise in Parliament, with China’s controversial ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ increasingly being the subject of attention in the House of Lords. Down the corridor and across central lobby it appears no MPs are now willing to be linked with the scheme which ties Chinese infrastructure spending with increased influence.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was founded in 2018 by Labour MP Faisal Rashid, who managed to find time amidst the ongoing Brexit drama in the last Parliament to visit both Guangdong and Guangxi in China. As the Beijing to Britain briefing service points out, Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming spoke at the group’s launch claiming:  ‘This is an open, transparent and rule-based initiative… decisions are made through extensive consultation.’

Rashid himself argued: ‘I see BRI as actually an opportunity for the UK’ adding that the project ‘is not very well promoted at the moment in our parliament. What we are doing is to try to provide education through the new group. And you can only do that when you form these platforms.’

As Chair of the APPG I will try my best to explore opportunities & markets around the world to help UK business. @GilesWatling @CatherineWest1 @MattWestern_ @The_IoD @britishchambers @fsb_policy @ChinaBritain @CBItweets @BRIandCPEC

— Faisal Rashid (@Faisal__Rashid) February 6, 2019

Fast forward two years and how is such education going? Parliamentary authorities confirmed to Steerpike that Belt and Road Iniative was no longer a registered parliamentary group, having been dissolved at the 2019 election and failed to be reffiliated afterwards. Rashid lost his seat in that election and is now standing for Warrington in May’s local elections while Ambassador Liu has been shuffled off to Korea, having given a disastrous interview to Andrew Marr last July denying the abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The official APPG Twitter account has tweeted just 12 times, with the last being in April 2019 – the same time it last received any press coverage in one of Liu’s interminable op-eds.

As one hawkish MP tells Steerpike: ‘It is definitely harder getting MPs to join a group when the country fronting it has been accused of genocide.’

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