Imran Ahmad Khan is MP for Wakefield.
The UK is gripped by a pandemic which has transformed both the state and the lives of its citizens, and redefined the relationship between the two.
Much is being done to bring an end to this national emergency.
Yet, this crisis provides our country with an opportunity to re-evaluate, reposition and reset our relationship with China, determining our future place on the global stage.
Credible voices claim that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has, again, demonstrated itself to be irresponsible and neglectful – not only of its own citizens, but to those of other sovereign states.
Over the last 20 years the world has suffered dangerous pandemics, many of which share a common source; the Chinese supply chain.
The 2002-2004 SARS outbreak infected 8000 people, claiming 774 lives across 29 states and territories, and it originated in the Guangdong province of China.
Health, food and hygiene security is of critical importance for every individual, yet the Chinese government’s policies relating to wild animals and the human and food supply chain demonstrate the little regard it has paid to it.
Chinese quarantine measures, the tracking of cases and subterfuge for fear of reputational damage contributed to the spreading of Coronavirus rather than limiting it.
This pandemic is yet another item in a long list of CCP cover-ups, secrecy, intrigue and delay, all of which have cost many thousands of lives both in China, and across the globe.
The scale of damage, pain, grief and loss caused by this pandemic need never to have happened.
A combination of the West’s short-sighted support and Beijing’s far-sighted strategic planning has rewarded China; it is now the largest exporter in the World.
The Coronavirus crisis merely confirms our poverty of understanding of, and control over, the global Sino-centric supply chain.
If China was a free-market democratic society, I would have few qualms about resolving our present issues with them.
After all, we would then share a common bedrock of democratically-dependant social and economic principles upon which to build an enduring relationship – predicated on mutual trust, cooperation and respect.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. China is a totalitarian regime.
Principles we not only value, but cherish, fight for and promote – such as individual rights and liberties and democratic accountability – are of less value to the CCP.
Clampdowns against protestors in Hong Kong and the detainment of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and others in ‘reeducation’ camps are just two recent additions to what sadly appears to be an ever-lengthening list of human rights violations.
Enjoying a powerful grip over global supply chains grants China the confidence to embark on an unsettlingly muscular foreign policy.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea, including China building a military island to increase its regional hegemonic power, compounded by clashes between China and the West in the UN, evidence this is sadly the case.
The UK and its allies should not prop up a trade system that promotes a country that is systemically corrupt and illiberal to a position of regional hegemon and oligarchic global power.
Present circumstances, although difficult, provide us the opportunity to establish the UK as a major supplier of trusted, safe, high-quality goods and services to our friends and allies in the Commonwealth and wider world.
Our friends require a supply which they can depend upon, and a supplier that shares their worldview that they can rely upon.
The Government has embarked on an unprecedented spending programme, vastly increasing the size and scope of its responsibilities – in an effort to mitigate the damage the Coronavirus pandemic will have on our lives and livelihoods.
If the response to this crisis necessitates the Government becoming larger, its powers should be harnessed to direct and deliver a long-term strategy in which the business and commercial sectors of the economy can flourish and steer the UK towards becoming a significant goods and services exporter in the western world.
Such a stratagem would require the creation of new infrastructure and networks with an entirely strategic agenda, that being to take back control of our supply chain and return it to regions such as the north of England.
Executing this strategic project will help Britain bounce back from the economic hurts inflicted upon it by the virus and repurpose the UK.
It will permit us to once more pick up our neglected mantle, and become a confident, independent and dependable major trading nation.
One that employs its commercial and cultural heft to the advantage of its citizens, and freedom loving people everywhere.
Some nations will struggle with reviving and recovering their economies after this pandemic, but by recentring as much of the global supply chain as we can in the North, indeed throughout our country, will enable the UK’s economy and prestige to recover and develop.
Encouraging the return of technical, manufacturing and industrial strength to regions such as Yorkshire and the North-East, to sit alongside our famed financial, legal and new media service sectors, through a government package designed to improve our infrastructure and industrial capacity, will not only level up the North but raise the whole UK.
Asserting ourselves as a global exporter and ending our reliance upon the Sino-centric supply chain would entail many security benefits.
There is risk with trusting the CCP with our supply chains, as evident not only with our current crisis, but with the vulnerabilities to our national security and intellectual property presented by the plans for Huawei 5G network.
Conversely, the UK is a widely trusted country, admired for its stable institutions and highly regarded legal system.
It is a global centre of learning and culture.
Re-establishing ourselves as an industrious, manufacturing nation would provide our friends and allies with confidence that both their supply chain and nation’s security are safer.
It is, precisely now, at this time of grave crisis that we must plan, not only for our economic recovery from the COVID-19 shock, but to prepare the mechanisms and pathways by which the UK will reposition and redefine itself as a leading global exporter of manufacturing and services, a powerful advocate for liberty and a friend to business.
The repatriation of supply lines to Britain and its allies, strengthens those alliances and enhances our security, whilst creating vital wealth and jobs.
Britain needs to step up and answer this call.
The West must “Play up! Play up! and play the game!”