China does listen to Britain, insists James Cleverly

James Cleverly met Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, in Beijing in August
James Cleverly met Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, in Beijing in August - Xinhua/Yue Yuewei/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

China does care what Britain thinks, James Cleverly has insisted, as he defended flying to Beijing to meet officials earlier this year.

The Foreign Secretary said that Britain had “influence” in Beijing and that “messages are landing” with officials.

Mr Cleverly told a live recording of The Spectator’s Chinese Whispers podcast that he had discussed the failed coup in Russia with his counterpart, Wang Yi, and the risk of more “catastrophic” events in the country on China.

“He listened very, very carefully, when we discussed that,” he said. “Now, his response was identical to responses I’ve had from him previously, except it wasn’t, and those differences mean that these messages are landing and we do have influence.”

He added: “I get very frustrated with my colleagues basically saying ‘oh the Chinese don’t care what the British think’. They really do, otherwise I wouldn’t have a four-hour meeting (with them).”

He added that the Chinese government had demanded he use one of its cars during his visit in August, but he refused.

Speaking at a drinks reception on Sunday night, Mr Cleverly said that he would visit the Falkland Islands to assert the UK’s control of them after a “run in” with the Argentinian government.

The UK Government has been embroiled in a fresh dispute with Argentina since March, when Buenos Aires pulled out of a cooperation agreement with Britain and called for fresh talks between the two countries over the Falklands.

The Foreign Secretary said that he would “make absolutely clear” that the UK supported the islands’ right to self-determination.