The “China Research Group” in UK: Frontal Picture …. and Possible Underground Chambers?

The Frontispiece on Google

The China Research Group was set up by a group of Conservative MPs in the UK to promote debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China. The group’s work looks beyond the immediate Coronavirus crisis or issues relating to Huawei, with the aim of considering the longer term challenges and opportunities associated with the rise of China and its industrial and diplomatic policies.

Tom Tugendhat & Neil O’Brien

These include:

  • China’s industrial policy. How China’s trade policy, state aid and strategic inward investments are shaping the world, not just the UK.
  • Technology futures. How the development, ownership and regulation of platform technologies that underpin future economic growth and innovation are being influenced.
  • Chinese foreign policy. The effects of “Belt and Road”, China’s main objectives, and where these align or clash with ours. How to understand Chinese soft power as well as hard power.

The CRG aims to promote understanding, leading to fresh thinking about issues raised by the rise of China, and provide a trustworthy source of news and informed knowledge on China issues. It seeks to promote greater debate about the huge challenges thrown up by the way China competes in the world.

This group will also explore opportunities to engage with and work with Chinese people, companies and government.

Who is involved?

The group is led by Tom Tugendhat MP and Neil O’Brien MP. They lead a committee which consists of Dehenna Davison MP, Anthony Browne MP, Laura Trott MP, Kevin Hollinrake MP, Alicia Kearns MP, Andrew Bowie MP and Damian Green MP.

The research team, Julia Pamilih and Chris Cash, are responsible for the day-to-day running of the group.

What does the CRG do?

  • Newsletter: A daily press summary and weekly review which brings together key China news and analysis.
  • Events: Regular public seminars, inviting leading thinkers and politicians from across the world to discuss issues related to China.
  • Research: Publishing original research and analysis on UK-China relations.
  • Dialogue: The CRG maintains an active dialogue with people and organisations in the UK and abroad who are involved in UK-China relations.

Getting involved

We are currently expanding our research output. We are always keen to hear from anyone who may wish to contribute or is involved in UK-China relations. Want to get in touch? Contact us.


New: Statement on sanctions against the China Research Group: A message from Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien on the decision to sanction the China Research Group

Ultimately this is just an attempt to distract from the international condemnation of Beijing’s increasingly grave human rights violations against the Uyghurs. This is a response to the coordinated sanctions agreed by democratic nations on those responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. This is the first time Beijing has targeted elected politicians in the UK with sanctions and shows they are increasingly pushing boundaries.

It is tempting to laugh off this measure as a diplomatic tantrum. But in reality it is profoundly sinister and just serves as a clear demonstration of many of the concerns we have been raising about the direction of China under Xi Jinping. Other mainstream European think tanks have also been sanctioned this week and it is telling that China now responds to even moderate criticism with sanctions, rather than attempting to defend its actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

As British legislators this will not actually affect us hugely, but the point of Beijing’s actions is to make others feel threatened, and to have a chilling effect on business people in particular. The sanctions come in a week where yet more Western businesses are discovering that China is becoming a dangerous place to do business, with H&M and others facing huge financial losses because their statements supporting basic human rights have offended an increasingly nationalistic and unpredictable Communist party.

The China Research Group has been trying to understand contemporary China better. One of our growing concerns has been that under Xi China has been moving away from a path of openness and cooperation and towards a path of increasing nationalism and aggression. This latest sinister attempt to shut down debate even within established democracies sadly just underlines those concerns.

As so often with Beijing, these sanctions are deliberately vaguely defined. Depending on what they mean by sanctioning the entire China Research Group, more than 100 UK MPs who have participated in our work and events could theoretically be covered by this, including senior members of ever.

A SET of CHALLENGES from “A Pacific Island Scrummager,” 27 March 2021

A: The China Research Group is run by a conservative MP Tom Tungendhat,  a former military intelligence officer with strong links to MI6 and the person who set up the China Research Group which operates out of the UK Parliament. It has a large budget, employs an undisclosed number of staff, and makes use of the resources of UK intelligence agencies.  It claims to not be anti-China and independent but it is neither, [and is. in fact,] an intelligence operation secretly funded by the UK government. 

B: China’s In-Your-Face Response, 22 March 2021

These guys have been awarded the “Badge of Honour” by the Chinese government for their services to propaganda.
These people do not believe in mutual dialogue. A nice touch of language to say these people have been “targeted this way,” because it is the same list of people who have “targeted” China in an unfair disinformation war.   Of course, this group think they are superior in morality to China. 

On Monday, 22 March 2021, the Chinese Foreign Ministry imposed sanctions on ten individuals and four institutions in Europe in retaliation at EU sanctions.

The March 21st EU Sanctions were aimed at Chinese government officials accused of being involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang. However, the Chinese sanctions in response covered not just European officials and political figures, but academics and academic and policy institutions which have a central role in undertaking research in Europe on China. These include researchers from Sweden and Germany, and the largest European China-focused think tank, the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS).

We are directors of diverse European research institutions committed to strengthening knowledge, mutual understanding and exchange between China and Europe. We are deeply concerned that targeting independent researchers and civil society institutions undermines practical and constructive engagement by people who are striving to contribute positively to policy debates. This will be damaging not only for our ability to provide well-informed analysis but also for relations more broadly between China and Europe in the future.

We believe that mutual dialogue is crucial, especially at difficult times, and deeply regret the inclusion of academic researchers and civil society institutions in the current tensions. We will stand by our colleagues who have been targeted this way.

  • Mika Aaltola, FIIA
  • Christer Ahlström, UI
  • Thorsten Benner, GPPi
  • Laurent Bigorgne, Institut Montaigne
  • Steven Blockmans, CEPS
  • Kerry Brown, Lau Institute
  • Hugues Chantry, Egmont Institute
  • Michael Collins, Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA)
  • Sławomir Dębski, PISM
  • Ondřej Ditrych, IIR
  • Kristian Fischer, DIIS
  • Lykke Friis, Think Tank Europa
  • Thomas Gomart, IFRI
  • Charles Grant, CER
  • Pia Hansson, Institute of International Affairs, University of Iceland
  • Jerker Hellström, SCCS
  • Karin von Hippel, RUSI
  • Anna-Katharina Hornidge, DIE
  • Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, GMFUS
  • Mark Leonard, ECFR
  • Stefan Mair, SWP
  • Amrita Narlikar, German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA)
  • Alexandre Negrus, Institut EGA
  • Robin Niblett, Chatham House
  • George Pagoulatos, ELIAMEP
  • Xavier Pasco, FRS
  • Charles Powell, Elcano Royal Institute
  • Daniela Schwarzer, DGAP
  • Monika Sie Dhian Ho, Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
  • Matej Šimalčík, CEIAS
  • Andris Sprūds, LIIA
  • Ulf Sverdrup, NUPI
  • Velina Tchakarova, AIES
  • Nathalie Tocci, IAI
  • Charalambos Tsardanidis, IIER
  • Guntram Wolff, Bruegel
  • Fabian Zuleeg, European Policy Centre


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2 responses to “The “China Research Group” in UK: Frontal Picture …. and Possible Underground Chambers?

  1. Fair Dinkum

    The UK love to indulge in anti-China rhetoric by ranting on about Uighurs and Xinjiang, or Hong Kong, but at Oxford University, Jewish groups tried to stop the filmmaker Ken Loach from speaking at event there on the grounds it would be antisemitic. So much for free speech in the UK. We can be anti-China, indeed it is encouraged, but we mustn’t be antisemitic

  2. Fair Dinkum

    These days any criticism of Israel, especially on their treatment of Palestinians is regarded as antisemitic.

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