The UK’s trade deficit with China has more than tripled in the last year as UK consumers went on lockdown spending sprees while exports the other way fell.
Data from the Department for International Trade showed that the UK imported £40.5bn more from China than it exported to the country in the year to June 2021 – up from the £11.8bn deficit in the previous 12 months.
Goods imports from China surged by 38% surge while UK exports declined by 34%.
Lord Purvis of Tweed, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for international trade, told the Telegraph that the surge in the trade deficit has weakened Britain’s influence on human rights issues in China.
“It’s become apparent that the government is taking us on a very worrying journey of becoming heavily dependent on China for trade in goods, and moving away from our nearest market in Europe,” he said.
According to Politico, trade minister Penny Mordaunt has said that the government will look at following the US in banning Chinese goods associated with the use of forced labour in the Xinjiang province.
According to the China British Business Council (CBBC), the past decade has seen success for British exports to China, which have more than tripled to over £30bn, making China the UK’s third largest trading partner.
Indeed, a reordering of trade partnerships has seen China overtake Germany as Britain’s biggest source of imports last year, according to ONS figures reported in the Guardian.
The BBC dates China’s growing economic dominance globally to its admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.
Western democracies hoped that economic growth would be accompanied by greater democracy in China, but the former has by and large come without the latter.
China is now the world’s second largest economy, prompting warnings from commentators about its growing influence on geopolitical and trade affairs.
The Henry Jackson Institute, a think tank, has advised countries including the UK to try to decouple their reliance on China in key areas to avoid strategic dependency.