The UK’s bilateral investment treaty with China is not fit for purpose
10 February 2021
Sam Goodman, Hong Kong Watch’s Senior Policy Advisor
Following the ongoing crackdown by Beijing on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, UK politicians have rightly called out the EU for rewarding China with an investment treaty, but going forward UK parliamentarians time would be better spent reviewing the UK’s own investment treaty which leaves much to be desired.
The UK-China Investment Treaty was negotiated and concluded back in 1986. Thirty-four years ago, China’s rise was not fully assured nor were the intentions of the Chinese Communist Party clear. Back then, the West held to the belief that economic engagement with China would lead to the liberalization of its economy and its society, with its leader Deng Xiaoping considered a great modernizer.
This investment treaty, and similar treaties like it, were signed with this motivation in mind. At the time of signing, the UK’s GDP was three times the size of China, therefore one might be forgiven for the lack of foresight from UK policymakers when it came to the treaty’s content.