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Will the Ceasefire in Israel-Gaza last?: What We Know So Far

52 days since Hamas’s devastating October 7 attack on Israel, which killed around 1,200 people, the hostage deal between the two sides had brought the first temporary pause in the conflict, and allowed the safe exchange of 50 hostages held by Hamas in return for 150 Palestinians being held by Israel.

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as part of a hostage deal that has so far seen Hamas release sixty-nine hostages, and Israel free one-hundred and fifty prisoners, the majority of which are women and children from both sides. The hostages freed by Hamas include fifty Israelis, seventeen Thais, one Filipino, and one dual Russian-Israeli national.

The original agreement outlined a four-day ceasefire to allow for the safe exchange of hostages and prisoners, and the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza, including fuel, water, sanitation, and medical supplies. That agreement has since been extended by an additional two days, to allow for further hostage exchange and fuel supplies.

Below, we offer an explanation of the agreement, how long the ceasefire can last, and what these developments mean for the longevity of the conflict.

What exactly was agreed between Israel and Hamas?

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Israeli government voted by an overwhelming majority for a hostage deal that would provide a brief ceasefire to its ongoing war in Gaza in return for the release of fifty of its hostages by Hamas. As part of the deal, one hundred and fifty Palestinian prisoners would also be freed by Israel.

Hamas pledged to release a total of fifty women and children, or around twelve daily, in exchange for one hundred and fifty Palestinian women and children largely being held, without charge, in Israeli prisons.

Humanitarian assistance arriving in al Zaytoun, Gaza. Sky News, 2023.

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly referred to a framework, whereby for each additional ten hostages released, the truce will be extended by a further day until all hostages have been returned. So far, this has proven correct as both sides have agreed to extend the temporary ceasefire by an additional two days provided Hamas releases a further twenty hostages.

How has a deal been reached and how long will it last?

The agreement is a significant diplomatic achievement brokered by officials of Qatar, Egypt, and the United States. Without direct lines of communication, messages were required to be passed from officials in Doha or Cairo to Hamas operatives in Gaza, discussed internally before messages were passed back, communicated with the United States, and finally presented to Israel.

Such a mechanism has predictably resulted in an excruciatingly long and drawn-out process of negotiations but ultimately one that was worthwhile, with both US President Joe Biden and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani acknowledging a hostage deal was the only way Israel was willing to sit at the negotiating table with Hamas.

Hostages released by Hamas arriving at a hospital in Israel on Sunday 26 November. New York Times, 2023.

Nevertheless, despite the temporary ceasefire providing Gazans with a welcome respite from military bombardment, it will not last forever. Netanyahu pledged that at the end of the agreed framework for hostage release and temporary ceasefire, Israel would “return with all our strength to realise our goals”, those goals being the absolute elimination of Hamas.

This statement, while undoubtedly a political statement of strength, complicates the long-term viability of the hostage deal. If Netanyahu vows to destroy Hamas upon the return of all hostages, where is the incentive for Hamas to continue to release hostages?

Arguably, we are seeing this tension play out first-hand with Qatari officials reporting that Hamas are seeking to find and locate up to forty other hostages being held captive by other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. Whilst this could be true, it could also be a ploy by Hamas to obtain a further extension of the ceasefire.

The hostage deal is a step in the right direction but long-term prospects for peace remain limited

While the temporary ceasefire is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it will soon end. One would hope that while hostage negotiations are ongoing, there are simultaneous discussions being had about a longer-term peace process that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live safely.

International pressure is pivotal to this. Leaders in the Middle East have been left frustrated by what they deem to be the double standards of the West when it comes to the loss of civilian lives in Palestine vis-à-vis civilian casualties in Israel, Russia, or Ukraine. Continued failure, they say, risks the war spilling over and destabilizing the entire region.

Israel’s stated aim of destroying Hamas, they view as both unrealistic and counterproductive, arguing Netanyahu’s attempts to securitize Israel, killing thousands of innocent civilians in the process, will radicalize a new generation of Palestinians.

Far-Right win big in Dutch General Election

On Thursday 23rd November, the Netherlands woke up to far-right populist candidate, Geert Wilders and his PVV party taking what many have called a shock victory. Beating all predictions, Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) has won 37 out of 150 seats after the Dutch went to the ballot box on Wednesday. 

Running on a campaign focused on immigration, the cost-of-living crisis and housing shortages, Geert Wilders has previously been branded an islamophobe due to his comments about Muslims and the Qur’an. Yet, his campaign chimed with Dutch voters, as his party came in well ahead of the 25 seats for a joint Labour/Green ticket and 24 for the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) – the party of the outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte. 

Dutch far-right politician and leader of the PVV party Geert Wilders votes in Dutch parliamentary elections in The Hague [Yves Herman/Reuters]

However, there is a long way to go before the Netherlands will know who their Prime Minister will be. Geert Wilders and his party need 76 seats to secure an outright majority. Coalition talks have begun but most experts believe it could take months before a decision is made. 

Wilders’ campaign also called for a referendum on the Netherlands leaving the European Union, an “asylum stop” and “no Islamic schools, Qurans and mosques.” Despite Mr Wilder’s hopes for a “Nexit” aka Dutch Brexit, there is arguably little interest from the Dutch public and will be unlikely to get agreement from coalition partners to sign up for a referendum. Yet, this victory is still a concern for Europhiles, as the Netherlands is one of the founding members of what became the European Union. 

Nationalist and far-right leaders around Europe praised his achievement. In France, Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing party Front National, and member of the same European Parliament political group congratulated Wilders’ win via a tweet. Wilders is set to become the longest-serving lawmaker in the Dutch parliament later this year, as he has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1998.

However, there’s no certainty that Geert Wilders will take the top job. The upcoming months of coalition talks present an opportunity for several political parties. Yet, with this political lurch to the right, more eyes will be watching the Dutch political climate going forward. 

Do Politicians deserve a second chance?

PM Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle has raised some eyebrows, not least for the sacking of controversial home secretary Suella Braverman amid recent comments and the appointment of former Prime Minister David Cameron. While this is headline-grabbing, what does this say about the trend of second chances in politics?

Let’s focus firstly on the Rt Hon David Cameron. Prime Minister between May 2010 and July 2016, he stepped down soon after the Brexit referendum as he had campaigned for Britain to remain. Yet now he’s back. Rising from the ashes of political obscurity (he’s not even an MP) David Cameron has taken one of the top jobs in cabinet, foreign secretary. 

It’s not unheard of, Sweden’s Carl Bildt and Denmark’s Lars Løkke Rasmussen made the same move from Prime Minister to foreign minister. What’s not to like? David Cameron is undeniably qualified, but he is unelected, and facing possible scandals due to lobbying payments. Even putting those facts aside, David Cameron had to resign after the Brexit referendum result, having campaigned to remain. That is a political failure if ever there was one. Yet now he’s back and a question to ask is, has he learnt his lessons?

The surprising fact is second chances are normal in politics. It comes and goes depending on who you’re in favour of and the political environment of the time. Suella Braverman has lost her job as home secretary twice in little more than a year. Previously removed by Liz Truss, it was Rishi Sunak who reinstated her (it has been revealed due to some secret deals). Indeed, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak himself failed to earn No.10 via vote, yet he remains Prime Minister.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron | Leon Neal/Getty Images

It’s not just the Conservatives who have the same trend of recycling political figures, former Prime Minister Tony Blair is being rehabilitated back into the Labour Party fold. Likely to help rally public support in the upcoming election. 

What I’m trying to underline is that politics seems out of touch with the rules of play for the rest of us. Which other industry can you be fired (perhaps twice) and still have the likelihood of employment in the future? If I was removed due to incendiary comments, or breaching office codes, or failing the promises I had made I doubt I would be back in the same office a year later. 

In no other industry can we see ineptitude rewarded with time away (often still in employment) and the same of similar political posts. Should we not hold our elected officials to higher standards? 

I must confess, I have been following politics long enough to know that this phenomenon will not end any time soon.  In fact, we, the public, might even like the irregular thrill of a comeback story that we are unable to fulfil ourselves. Whether you love or hate our political classes there’s something a little exciting about the prospect of someone old coming back to newer times. Like your favourite character from a series raised from the dead, we’re never quite sure what might happen next. 

Was Braverman right about the police?

The Metropolitan Police have been called into question over how they policed both of last Saturday’s protests in London.

There were fears that the Cenotaph – a war memorial in central London – was going to be attacked by certain pro-Palestinian protestors on Saturday. Many on the far right – including founder and former leader of the far-right group English Defence League Tommy Robinson – descended on Whitehall to ‘protect’ the monument.

Although the police managed to separate both demonstrations in the capital, there were arrests on both sides as the far-right appeared to clash with police.

Suella Braverman, before being promptly sacked from her position as Home Secretary the following Monday, had previously described the pro-Palestinian demonstrations as ‘hate marches’.

As a consequence, there is a perception by some that the pro-Palestine demonstration was over-policed, despite most of the disorder coming from the far-right groups, backed by high-ranking government officials.

Perspective counts

Whether the police were biased towards either group on Saturday ultimately depends on an individual’s perspective on the matter, which, ultimately, seems to the the core issue.

The right-wing football hooligans that descended on Whitehall will see any attempts by the police to enforce law and order around the Cenotaph as fundamentally ‘un-British’ and an affront to British history and culture.

Chants of ‘you’re not British anymore’ were heard as the police were caught off guard by the number of people who arrived, many were caught with weapons and class-A drugs and one officer was injured with a dislocated hip.

Ultimately, they have nobody to blame except themselves, as many were seen being arrested and dragged away despite the police’s success in keeping the two groups separate from each other.

Some pro-Palestinian protestors may interpret the heavy police presence at the Cenotaph as a clear sign as to where the police’s loyalties lie, in that they see their protests as a potential threat to British culture itself and therefore have taken the side of the hooligans/far-right crowd.

There were many arrests during this protest, but many of them seemed to come in the later afternoon and evening, by which point many journalists and news organisations had already left.

The Met has asked for the public’s help in identifying members of the public suspected of hate crimes

Many would interpret some of the chants (such as ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’) and slogans being promoted as explicitly anti-Semitic, with many smaller groups (including one 150-strong) breaking away from the main crowd to cause trouble.

The Metropolitan Police, via X, has released a series of images of individuals they wish to speak to for committing hate crimes.

The police, unfortunately, are being perceived by certain political groups as a means to an end. If the police aren’t on their side, they’re the enemy.

This is not helped by Braverman’s comments, who has vindicated the suspicions of people who feel this way.

It no longer seems to be enough for the police to be neutral in heated matters; whatever they do – or don’t do – will be analysed and interpreted as either an attack or a victory.

What now?

The Met is continuing to identify and hunt down members of the public who are suspected to have committed hate crimes.

After Braverman’s sacking, she savaged the Prime Minister in a scathing public letter that has the potential to split the Tory party almost irreparably under Sunak’s tenure in office.

A second letter of no confidence was submitted after her letter was released to the public.

The Tory party is hoping that the police issue will not be used as a political football, as many feel as if Braverman is in the frame to take over as Prime Minister should Sunak not be able to hold onto his position.

This is why we need to cancel ‘cancel culture’

Universities in America are at a crossroads. In the shadow of the Israel-Hamas conflict, they’re faced with pressure from wealthy donors who threaten to withdraw funding, as students make public protests and calls to action. A reminder that our generation has welcomed what is being called ‘cancel culture’. Cleo warns whichever side of the divide you sit on, we should be worried that squashing discussions and debate is a threat to freedom, activism, and democracy. 

I’m going to put up my hand and say that I have got it wrong. A number of times actually. And I’ve said things I no longer agree with. Yet I’m still here writing this column. However, the threat of possible ‘cancelling’ has become part of our daily lives. It can affect the rich and famous, a social media poster or a university academic. Typically, those who are cancelled have something to lose – usually first on the list is the pedestal where they have been placed. 

Cancel culture is most often used to refer to people who are deemed to have acted or spoken unacceptably and are boycotted, or ostracised. So, what can we do about cancel culture? Firstly, I must be clear that there’s a difference between hate speech and free speech. One involves inciting violence and can be legally indicted. I’m asking us to think about the grey area of free speech. The complex issues that don’t have an answer and make us feel uncomfortable. Those issues are often the ones we are so quick to cancel.  

Katheleen Stock on Sky News after controversial article about women and trans rights Source: Sky News

I get it. People do heinous things, and I would never argue that people are above reproach. Yet that doesn’t stop us from admitting that we are flawed. We should be able to learn from our mistakes. We should be able to listen and discuss. Separating the individual and the idea. The art and the person. Some of the most high-profile people to be cancelled are often celebrated for the things they have done or created, and they fall unceremoniously from grace. Yet why were they placed above the rest of us in the first place? No person, however talented, is flawless (sorry Beyoncé). Why are we so quick to remove people’s humanity?

I’d argue, that cancel culture is the lack of conversation. Allowing mistakes is a learning opportunity. Banishing people leaves no room for conversation or change. How can we make society better if we don’t allow growth?

My recommendations for countering cancel culture are being open for a debate or conversation, and for everyone to be heard. Next is to truly enquire and dissect the idea, not the person. People are products of their experiences. We are shaped by the things that happened to us; the multitude of ways we have been made to feel. Rather than condemning someone for their lottery of experiences, first inspect where their ideas came from. If you shun them, that doesn’t mean they are destroyed – they just go somewhere else. Lastly, take a moment for self-reflection. Rather than asserting moral superiority we should admit that none of us are perfect. 

Dave-jà vu as former PM Cameron returns to government

The infamous former PM has not held ministerial office since being forced to resign in the wake of defeat in the Brexit referendum in 2016. Now he’s back as foreign secretary amidst the latest cabinet reshuffle – Braverman’s out, Cameron’s in.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sacked the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, installing Foreign Secretary James Cleverly as the new Home Secretary, and paving the way for the shocking return of former Prime Minister David Cameron as the new Foreign Secretary.

The cabinet reshuffle comes in response to growing pressure on the Prime Minister to reign in his ‘unhinged’ and ‘out of control’ Home Secretary following Braverman’s recent comments accusing the Metropolitan Police Force of racial bias in its policing of pro-Palestinian protests. Braverman’s comments, describing the protests as ‘hate marches’, had been accused of intentionally stoking racial division and even inciting violence as clashes erupted on Armistice Day between far-right hooligan groups ‘defending’ the Cenotaph and police desperately trying to ensure they did not meet with pro-Palestinian protestors.

The Prime Minister hopes the return of former Prime Minister David Cameron into the fold at a time when multiple significant global events are occurring will bring valuable leadership and experience in the Office of Foreign Secretary. While the new Home Secretary James Cleverly is experienced, well-liked, and diplomatic, much the antithesis of the incumbent former foreign Secretary Suella Braverman.

Below, we offer an analysis of how it is possible for David Cameron to become Foreign Secretary when he is not even an MP, some of the driving forces behind Sunak’s decision, and what the future might hold.

Can Lord Cameron steady the ship?

Seven years since stepping down from his post as Prime Minister, David Cameron has returned to parliament. This time, he will not be answerable to the electorate. He is not an MP meaning he has not been democratically elected to represent the interests of the British public, yet now holds one of the four Great Offices of State. Without a ministerial position, for Cameron to become Foreign Secretary he had to become a Baron and a life peer in the House of Lords. King Charles duly obliged and approved Cameron’s seat in record time.

Whilst the move has few parallels across British democratic history, there is precedent. Lord Peter Carrington was Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary from the House of Lords, held in high regard until he stepped down following a failure to foresee the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.

Of course, even without the constitutional complications, the appointment of David Cameron is not without controversy. He is the man who took Britain out of the European Union. He has recently been at the centre of not one, but two lobbying scandals. First on behalf of Greensill, where he worked as an ‘advisor’ while lobbying none other than Rishi Sunak himself for support amidst the company’s collapse, and more recently on behalf of the Chinese government.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron resigns on the steps of 10 Downing Street in the wake of the Brexit referendum results, 2016.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

He was the architect of the ‘golden era’ of UK-China relations. Until recently, he continued his close working relationship with China as vice-chair of a £1 billion China-U.K. investment fund, a role which according to parliament’s intelligence and security committee, may have been engineered by the Chinese state to legitimize Chinese investments through a reputable figure.

At the Conservative party conference, last month, the Prime Minister pledged to be the candidate of change and an inflection point from previous Conservative governments. Instead, he has brought back Cameron out of the political cold and back into the mainstream.

The implications of Cameron’s appointment are yet unclear, but speculation is rife

Some assert that Cameron’s appointment is a sensible move, bringing experience and stature to a cabinet severely lacking. Some insist it is a damning indictment of the current crop of Conservative MPs that none are deemed to have the calibre necessary for the position of Foreign Secretary. While others will remember Sunak’s pledge, just last month, to be an agent of change at the Conservative Party Conference. During his speech, Sunak criticized the past 30 years of British politics, arguing each of his predecessors had failed to lead and instead sought to appease, alluding to the need to resist identity politics and in broad support of his former Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s stances on cultural issues.

Cynics might argue the appointment of Cameron is now an attempt to obfuscate such views and instead appease more moderate Conservative voters who were critical of Braverman, and thereby the government’s role in causing public disorder. Cameron is, after all, a moderate Conservative often accused of being a closet liberal.

Whatever you believe, it is evident Cameron has a political pedigree. What is less clear is Rishi Sunak’s long-term plan for governing. His reign continues to be highly reactive resembling a constant political firefight with no clear vision for the future. Right-wing, left-wing, centrist? It is true that politicians should not be strictly wedded to ideology, and there is always room for nuance but Rishi Sunak changes position on the same issues on a weekly basis. If David Cameron is the answer, then what is the question, Rishi?

Decoding Labour’s ‘Securonomics’


In an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world, ‘securonomics’ was the buzzword permeating from the Labour Party’s Conference 2023 in Liverpool. Entrusted with the responsibility to protect Britain, what does ‘securonomics’ really mean?

Through ‘securonomics’ the Labour Party is proposing a foreign policy that begins…at home. The fact that the most notable foreign policy announcement of the recent Labour Conference came during the Shadow Chancellor’s speech, and not the Shadow Foreign Secretary’s speech is telling in and of itself. In a world of interconnected economies and globalized trade, national security is economic security.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves announced during her speech at Labour Conference that “globalization is dead” and a Labour government would instead pursue a policy of ‘securonomics’. Below, we dissect what this really means and if globalization truly is dead.

What does ‘securonomics’ mean?

Labour’s ‘securonomics’ can be understood as the fundamental belief that economic security must precede overtures abroad. This means securing supply chains and building production capacity in areas where the UK is currently over-reliant on other nations, particularly unfriendly ones. “We are living in an age of insecurity”, argued Reeves, in reference to the geopolitical events of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and war in Europe.

Labour Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves speaks to Labour Conference, 2023 in Liverpool. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

A Britain seeking to play a leading international role must first strengthen its capacity to be self-reliant, “in a world where our adversaries may turn off the taps to energy supply, or remove access to critical technology (…), Britain needs to be more resilient.”

‘Securonomics’ is about Britain ‘standing tall’ and ‘reaching out’

Economic resilience, as outlined above, embodies a figurative reference made repeatedly to Britain ‘standing up’. While Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy’s speech at Labour Conference 2023 was symbolic of a Britain, having stood tall, that would reach out to allies and renew its partnerships, “a strong Britain is not a lonely Britain but a United Kingdom whose alliances give us strength.”

David Lammy, Shadow Foreign Secretary, and John Healey, Shadow defence secretary, in Washington. Photograph: Dermot Tatlow/The Telegraph

Lammy referenced the Labour governments of the past and their role in the formation of key international security alliances, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations (UN), suggesting a Labour government would not deviate much from Britain’s longstanding and leading role in the international community.

Together, ‘standing tall’ and ‘reaching out’, not only underpin Labour’s ‘securonomics’ approach to governance but also embody the broader Labour campaign to re-establish public trust by presenting itself as a party of fiscal competence and sensible politics. Protecting the economy demonstrates fiscal competence whilst pledging to strengthen Britain’s existing commitments to its alliances such as NATO is intended to forge a clear distinction between the current Labour Party and its predecessor led by Jeremy Corbyn, who was a vocal critic of NATO.

How would Labour implement ‘securonomics’?

‘Securonomics’ would entail investment in UK industry to increase self-reliance when it comes to critical infrastructure. It would require onshoring jobs in parts of industrial supply chains formerly sent abroad returning to the UK. This in turn demands the upskilling of the UK populace to complete such roles. Labour calls this a bottom-up approach to achieving economic growth and national security simultaneously, whilst advancing the general population’s interests.

‘Why ‘securonomics’?

‘Securonomics’ is symbolic of the wider dissolution of boundaries between domestic and foreign policy, and industrial policy and national security, which we are seeing across Western governments in response to the increasingly unpredictable and dangerous world taking hold all around us.

The United States government’s £350bn Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) leverages private sector investment into domestic manufacturing and critical infrastructure capacity through government subsidies. In doing so, it hoped to accelerate industry shifts toward emerging technologies and securitize its economy.

Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, seekig to forge new aliiances with like-minded leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France. Photograph: Laurent Blevennec/Présidence de la République

Australia, Germany, and the EU have all followed suit with similar initiatives. The UK Labour Party’s ‘securonomics’ approach is merely a variation on a common theme emerging in the West – secure at home to stand tall whilst reaching out and engaging abroad with like-minded nations.

Globalisation isn’t dead, only now it has a protectionist streak.

Managing paranoia in modern times: lessons from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible


As paranoia grips the West, Chinese and Russian spies are said to threaten us all and bloc politics are emerging again. Let us draw on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible for lessons on how to tread the line between naivety and hysteria in society.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a fictional recasting of the very real tale of the Salem witch trials in the United States between 1692 and 1693. During this time, hundreds were accused of witchcraft leading to hangings and executions.

The basic premise of the story is a group of girls are caught attempting to conjure up a spell. They deny the claims and lie to protect themselves. Their lies take on a life of their own and culminate in the hysteria surrounding the spread of witchcraft in Salem.

One of the more opportunistic girls seizes the subsequent hysteria to accuse the wife of a man she is in love of with and rejected by, witchcraft in order to rid of her. Sensing the shifting public opinion and a dawning realization his wife may be executed, the husband falsely ‘confesses’ to the crime of witchcraft to save his wife but to no avail. Both are hanged, whilst the girls originally accused flee.

The story is a lesson in the danger of hysteria and how information can take on a life of its own once in the public domain. Criminality is weaponized and rather than ridding society of its ills, is manipulated by different actors with differing intentions seeking to further their own agenda. This blurs the lines between fact and fiction, and what is just and unjust. Unintended consequences emerge and innocent people are punished.

We can draw parallels between the hysteria present in The Crucible and in society today, as we explore below.

Drawing parallels between The Crucible and society today

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, and the trade war between the United States and China have seen hysteria grip Western societies. Anything and everything Russian or Chinese is to be feared. The US say we must ‘de-couple’. The UK and EU say we must ‘de-risk’. What either of these things mean has been left, by design, ambiguous. This means politicians can be flexible in both interpretation and application in response to the latest international developments.

However, a consequence of such ambiguity is a tendency to conflate hysteria and national security. Spies are a useful recent example of this. In the UK, the case of the parliamentary researcher accused of being a Chinese government informant and more recently the 5 Bulgarian nationals appearing in court on charges of spying for Russia has led some to argue that Chinese and Russian spies are now a threat to us all.

The latest manifestation of such hysteria recently unfolded in Europe where Alibaba, the Chinese technological giant, stands accused of espionage in Belgium via its spin-off logistics firm Cainiao.

Alibaba’s Liège operations, Europe’s fifth-largest cargo airport, are under investigation from Belgium’s security service. Financial Times, 2023.

As I have argued previously, governments spying on one another, like it or not,  is nothing new. The decision to publicize the cases and to prosecute the accused is.

Whilst intelligence and security agencies justify such an approach for its success in disrupting foreign operations to gather sensitive information, an unintended effect is to create hysteria amongst wider society.

Innocent people suffer at the hands of hysteria

Whilst such thinking begins in the upper echelons of society, government, and institutions, it gradually trickles down into the cracks of society sowing seeds of division. We have been here before.

A scene from the Bristol Old Vic Company production of Arthur Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’ in 1954. Getty Images, 2023.

Western citizens are allegedly being apprehended at random in China and Russia on dubious espionage cases in retaliation to the prosecution of Chinese and Russian spies in the likes of the UK, Belgium, and Germany.

In the UK, Russian people are conflated with their government and face calls to be removed from the country by officials as high ranking as the Minister for Security.

Words matter, we should use them carefully. Countries spy. It can’t be the case that some spying is okay and rational because of some sense of moral superiority. While other spying is wrong because it is a result of innate evil.

Security agencies and media institutions tread a careful line when it comes to national security – balancing naivety and hysteria is no small order – but is a task society demands.

The Israel-Hamas conflict: The complexities of History, Geography, Faith and Politics

Why I am writing this column is to try and give a place for you to start. Many other journalists have written and broadcast on this very subject. As a journalist, it is our job to make sense of the world. I would argue that not all summaries are ‘equal’. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, nothing about what is happening is easy or simple. If someone seems to think it is, then they’re not doing a good job.  

Whether you believe journalism is a noble pursuit or not, I do believe it should strive for truth. I’m not sure we’re seeing balance or clarity in regard to this conflict, considering there are so many politics, faiths and emotions rolled into it. I will try my best to offer some guidance that I have used to make sense of what is happening in Gaza, which is both so important yet so far removed from our lives. 


While the Israel-Hamas conflict is very current, Israel and Palestine have a long and complicated history. Despite what some articles would have you believe, tensions in this region are decades old. And if you think that it has nothing to do with ‘us’ – read on just a little further. 

If you ask people where to date the start of the conflict, some may go back even to ancient history. I recommend looking at the aftermath of World War Two. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the British Mandate, Palestine into two states. One Jewish, and One Arab. Why this was proposed in the first place is a spider’s web of declarations and treaties. The reason it was a British Mandate is thanks to the First World War as the territory was conceded by the Ottoman Empire. 

Evidently, there are many sides and aspects to the history. Instead, perhaps look at the stories. The horrific ones we are reading about currently from this current war. Plus those of Palestinians experiencing occupation and Israelis first moving to the state of Israel. If you feel you must decide a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for this conflict, I would urge you to hear people’s voices first as they are the ones who are affected by this historical conflict every single day. 

(Al Jazeera)

The Gaza Strip occupies land along the Mediterranean Sea. It is physically isolated from the remaining territory of Palestine, and similarly, the governing entities are different. Hamas was elected in 2007 and no elections have taken place since then, while the remaining areas are under the PLO or Fatah. Israel and Palestine are home to several religious and holy sites which means the land itself is perhaps of greater value to some. However, even a map is political. Thanks to wars, and occupation the shape of Israel has changed over time, and in parts is still undefined, some feel certain maps support the arguably illegal occupation undertaken by Israel.


This conflict and the region will often be simplistically divided into Islam and Judaism. But the picture is far more complex. Christians although a minority are present in the region. Expressing support or concern for a people on either ‘side’ should not be considered Islamophobic or antisemitic. When people throw around extreme language, they are trying to divide people and squash debate. You can promote peace while still believing that a group or state’s interest should be heard.   

International Politics

While Palestine is described by many as a state, it is not. 138 of the 193 UN member states have recognized Palestine as a state. Of the G20, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States all have not formally recognized Palestine, yet most have expressed support for a two-state solution. Many articles and news stories speak as is Palestine is a country, when in fact it is not. Ensure that what you read is able to balance these facts when they make their arguements.

Is peace possible? Very few people will know what peace looks like on both sides. Pay attention to the language people are using. Are they war-making or peacebuilding? To prevent further catastrophe, we must amplify the experts looking for a long-lasting resolution. We have done a disservice to the region to allow a conflict to be unresolved for so long. I’m not sure if or when it will end but peace is deserving to all civilians living in the region. 

Was the FA right to not light up Wembley with Israel colours?

The Football Association has been condemned after announcing that Wembley Stadium will not be lit up in blue and white in support of Israel due to the country’s ongoing conflict with Palestine.

In a statement, they also announced that they will ‘remember the victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine’ with a one-minute silence before England’s Euro 2024 qualifier match against Italy, and plans to promote a Red Cross emergency appeal to those affected by the war.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the largest Jewish communal organisation in the UK, blasted the FA, calling their decision ‘weak and spineless’. They questioned why the FA showed solidarity with France following the Bataclan massacre in 2015 by lighting up the Wembley arch in French colours, but refused to do the same for Israel.

Rabbi Alex Goldberg, chair of the FA’s Faith in Football Network, has expressed his ‘profound disappointment’ with the FA, and plans to quit the network.

“For me, it’s imperative that our responses and actions, especially in international platforms like those at Wembley Stadium, are unequivocal in their support for the victims of such atrocities”, he said.

The FA’s decision has also been heavily criticised by Downing Street, with Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer saying she’d been left “extremely disappointed”.

“Words and actions matter. The government is clear: we stand with Israel,” she said.

Pandora’s box has been opened

It was not a matter of if the FA would be caught in a moral quandary, it was when. Once again, we have an example of what happens when organisations decide to assert themselves as one of the moral arbiters of society. In the FA’s defence, it isn’t the first organisation to be caught between a rock and a hard place in regards to their moral stance on an issue, and neither will it be the last.

Many organisations have been actively political in the past decade. As politics becomes increasingly hostile, many consumers of certain products, food and entertainment are demanding more from the companies they support. It no longer seems enough for organisations to keep a neutral standpoint on issues.

A recent example of this is ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s open support for the Black Lives Matter campaign, going so far as calling on ‘white America [to] collectively acknowledge its privilege’. It’s become indicative of society’s political trajectory, where politics and business have become intertwined and have a sort of symbiotic relationship.

The issue that comes with this sort of corporate activism is deciding what stance to take on certain issues, which will almost always isolate groups of people on the unchosen side. Due to the uniquely vitriolic and passionate political tensions relating to the ongoing Israel/Palestine feud, the FA could be shown a certain amount of sympathy in regards to its neutral stance on the issue, but to British Jews, this isn’t enough. In some cases, to stay silent or neutral on an issue IS taking a side.

The Wembley arch was lit up in yellow and blue, in solidarity with Ukraine at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of the country, in rainbow colours to show solidarity with the LGBT community during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and in red after terrorist attacks in Turkey outside Besiktas’ stadium in 2016.

None of these examples were ‘neutral’. The FA was clear and firm in its stance on these issues. Why, then, should it not take a similar stance on Israel?

British Jews will be of the opinion that English football was too slow to react to the attacks by the terrorist group Hamas, in which at least 1,300 Israelis have died in what is the worst act of killing of Jews since the Holocaust.

The speed at which the FA reacted to the aforementioned issues should also be taken into consideration. The Wembley arch was lit up in yellow and blue, red and rainbow colours within hours of their respective situations unfolding.

In this case, not only did they spend too much time arguing about how to handle the situation, they didn’t actually take a stance at all. To many, that’s simply not good enough. It’s an indication that some causes are perceived by the FA to be more important than others.

The FA and Wembley were lightning-quick to react to other causes and tragedies. Why the delay for this one?

The FA seems to have been hoisted by its own petard. This is a direct consequence of virtue signalling – it runs the risk of backfiring and isolating groups of people.

Pandora’s box is well and truly opened.

What happens now?

England players are planning to wear black armbands in solidarity with the victims on both sides of the war.

The FA has strictly banned any and all international flags that are not associated with the countries playing inside Wembley Stadium.

Following a terrorist attack in Belgium – where two people were shot dead in Brussels, causing Belgium’s match against Sweden to be abandoned, and which police say could be related to the ongoing war – police in and around Wembley during England’s match against Italy are on high alert and will have a significant presence throughout the evening.

What is Hamas? A simple guide to the armed Palestinian terrorist group

The Palestinian militant group has struggled to govern Gaza and remains committed to violently resisting Israel. Its surprise attack against Israel in 2023 threatens a wider conflagration in the Middle East.

In Summary

  • A spin-off of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1980s, the Islamist militant group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip after defeating its rival political party, Fatah, in elections in 2006.
  • The United States and European Union have designated Hamas a terrorist organization because of its armed resistance against Israel, which has included suicide bombings and rocket attacks.
  • Israel has declared war on Hamas following its surprise assault on southern Israel in 2023, the deadliest attack on the country in decades.

Hamas is an Islamist militant movement and one of the Palestinian territories’ two major political parties. It governs more than two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but the group is best known for its armed resistance to Israel. In October 2023, Hamas launched a massive surprise attack on southern Israel, killing hundreds of civilians and soldiers and taking dozens more as hostages. Israel has declared war on the group in response and indicated its military is planning for a long campaign to defeat it. 

Dozens of countries have designated Hamas a terrorist organization, though some apply this label only to its military wing. Iran provides it with material and financial support, and Turkey reportedly harbors some of its top leaders. Its rival party, Fatah, which dominates the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and rules in the West Bank, has renounced violence. The split in Palestinian leadership and Hamas’s unwavering hostility toward Israel have diminished prospects for stability in Gaza.

When was Hamas formed and what is its aim?

The Hamas movement was founded in Gaza in 1987 by an imam, Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, and his aide Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi shortly after the start of the first Intifada, an uprising against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The movement started as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and created a military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to pursue an armed struggle against Israel with the aim of liberating historic Palestine.

It also offered social welfare programmes to Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation.

Soldiers walk in front of a police station that was damaged during battles to dislodge Hamas terrorists who were stationed inside, in the southern city of Sderot, on October 8, 2023. (JACK GUEZ/AFP)

Position on the peace process

From its foundation, Hamas rejected negotiations that would cede any land. The group denounced the 1993 peace agreement between Israel and the PLO and, along with the Islamic Jihad group, subsequently intensified its terror campaign using suicide bombers. The PLO and Israel responded with harsh security and punitive measures, although PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, seeking to include Hamas in the political process, appointed Hamas members to leadership positions in the Palestinian Authority (PA). The collapse of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in September 2000 led to an increase in violence that came to be known as the Aqṣā intifada. That conflict was marked by a degree of violence unseen in the first intifada, and Hamas activists further escalated their attacks on Israelis and engaged in a number of suicide bombings in Israel itself.

In the years after the Aqṣā intifada, Hamas began to moderate its views toward the peace process. After more than a decade of rejecting the foundational principles of the PA, Hamas ran in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and subsequently participated in the PA, with indications that it would accept agreements between Israel and the PA. Since then, senior Hamas leaders have repeatedly stated their willingness to support a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. This willingness was enshrined in the 2017 Document of General Principles and Policies.

What does Hamas believe

Since assuming power in the Gaza Strip two years after the Israeli disengagement in 2005, it has fought several wars of varying intensity against Israel. Unlike Fatah, Hamas asserts that Israel’s existence is inherently illegitimate and likewise rejects the two-state solution with regard to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It advocates the creation of an Islamic state over the combined territory of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip (i.e., from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea). Under the ideological principles of Islamism, it promotes Palestinian nationalism in an Islamic context; it has pursued a policy of jihad (armed struggle) against Israel. Hamas has pushed through changes that gave greater influence to Islamic law in the Gaza Strip. It has a social service wing, Dawah, and a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

People take part in a ‘Stand with Palestine’ demonstration, close to the Israeli embassy, in West London, on October 9, 2023. (Daniel LEAL/AFP)

In recent years, Hamas has increasingly gained popularity and support in Palestinian society. A poll conducted in 2021 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey found that 53% of Palestinians believed that Hamas was “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people” while only 14% preferred Fatah. Polls conducted in 2023 found that support of Hamas among Palestinians was around 27-31%.

How is Hamas’s attack on Israel in 2023 different?

Hamas’s assault on southern Israel this year, which the group’s leaders have called “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” was extraordinary in its strategy, scale, and secrecy, analysts say. It began early in the morning on October 7, the Jewish Sabbath and an important Jewish holiday, with Hamas launching several thousand rockets into southern and central Israel, hitting cities as far north as Tel Aviv. Hamas militants also breached the heavily fortified Gaza border and infiltrated many southern Israeli towns and villages, killing hundreds of Israeli troops and civilians, and wounding and kidnapping scores more. 

Hamas’s military leader, Mohammed Deif, said the group undertook its assault because of Israel’s long-running blockade of Gaza, its occupation of Palestinian lands, and its alleged crimes against Muslims, including the desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. 

Israeli soldiers cordon off an area after a shooting in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank [Hazem Bader/AFP]

It is the deadliest attack on Israeli soil in decades and has inflicted a deep psychological trauma on the Israeli people, with some analysts drawing comparisons to the surprise Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly had no indications that Hamas was planning an assault of this nature. “It is completely unprecedented that a terrorist organization would have the capacity or the wherewithal to mount coordinated, simultaneous assaults from the air, sea, and land,” writes CFR Senior Fellow Bruce Hoffman.

Israel has declared war on Hamas and countered with intensifying air strikes on targets in Gaza and ground operations to push the group’s militants out of the country. The government has ordered the evacuation of all civilians from Israeli communities bordering Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of a “long and difficult war” against Hamas, and Israel’s military response is expected to be extraordinary, if not unprecedented. 

Some observers are questioning if Israel will attempt a full-scale invasion and reoccupation of the Palestinian territory, a campaign that could incur heavy casualties on both sides. “Israel had mounted numerous military operations against Hamas since its takeover in 2007, two years after Israel pulled out of Gaza. But these were mostly from the air. And even when Israeli troops were deployed, they never stayed for long,” writes CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot for the Washington Post. 

An Israeli invasion of Gaza could also provoke a significant attack against Israel by Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group in Lebanon, risking a wider conflagration in the region, analysts say. “Iran is, of course, a patron of Hezbollah [as well as Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups] and there is an ever-present danger of a two-front conflict, which would devastate parts of Israel and much of Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based. There is a risk of escalation,” says CFR Senior Fellow Steven A. Cook.

Israel declares war: What is going on?

Israel has declared a state of war following the biggest attack on the country in decades. More than 1500 people have died. Below, we provide a summary of the latest developments.

More than 1500 people have died including at least one confirmed British citizen, as Israel declared a state of war in the country following an attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas has been in power in Gaza since 2007 having won local elections despite being designated a terrorist group by the likes of Israel, the United States (US), the European Union (EU), and the UK. The group says it is committed to establishing a Palestinian state within its own borders, and that attacks come in retaliation to atrocities that Palestinians have faced over decades.

On the morning of October 7th, Hamas launched rockets and sent fighters into Israel in a surprise attack killing over 800 Israelis, including the massacre of 260 attendees of the Nova music festival in Southern Israel. The group are said to have taken more than 100 hostages.

Palestinians react as an Israeli military vehicle burns after it was hit by Palestinian attacks, Oct. 7, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Fayq Abu Mostafa.

In response, Israel launched a series of air strikes on Gaza killing more than 700 Palestinians. The Israeli military has since laid siege to Gaza, a densely populated strip of land home to 2.3 million people, blocking access to all electricity, fuel, food, and water.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant vowed, “we are fighting human animals and we will act accordingly”.

Palestinians remove a dead body from the rubble of a building after an Israeli air raid in Jabalia refugee camp, Oct 9, 2023. Al Jazeera/Ramez Mahmoud/AP Photo

Hamas has committed to execute Israeli hostages if Palestinians are not warned of impending Israeli airstrikes.

Rocketfire has also been exchanged along Israel’s Lebanese border with the militant group Hezbollah. The two incidents aren’t said to be linked but some experts argue Hamas and Hezbollah may yet co-ordinate attacks on Israel if it continues plans to launch a first ground offensive into Gaza in over a decade after it called up 300,000 army reservists to fight.

Word leaders have condemned the attacks

Leaders from around the world have condemned the attacks. A joint statement released by leaders of the UK, US, France, Italy and Germany states they were united in support of Israel and its right to defend itself.

The US has gone further in its support by sending warships and military aircraft to the region, in addition to weapons ammunition. Although White House National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, said the government has no plans to send US troops into Israel.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salmon said the Kingdom would continue to stand by the Palestinians and pledged its support to restore calm and stability.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on both sides to demonstrate restraint and bring an end to violence to protect citizens.

China’s official response said it condemned the attacks and called for an end to hostilities and any moves which seek to escalate the conflict and destabilize the region further.

The UN is engaging with key regional actors but internal disagreements stall the release of a joint statement

The United Nations (UN) chief of the Middle East Peace Process, Tom Wennesland, has said its officials are engaging with key regional actors including the US, EU, Qatar, Egypt, and Lebanon to coordinate a response that will “avoid further loss of civilian life and deliver much needed humanitarian aid to the (Gaza) Strip.”

However, following a briefing from Wennesland, the UN Security Council (the primary body charged with the maintenance of international peace and security) failed to reach the agreement required for it to release a joint statement on the matter amid divisions between two camps led by Russia and the US. The Russian-led group of members is said to favour a broader statement condemning more than just the Hamas group, which the US-led group favours.

UN special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese, has cautioned the international community it is necessary to “stand both with the Palestinians and the Israelis without resorting to (…) selective outrage or worse, calls for violence.”

Are Party Conferences relevant to voters?

Whether you’re into politics or not, many of the news headlines during the month of October are about party conferences. This year that includes scrapping A-Levels and the HS2 rail project detailed in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s speech on October 4. As an outsider, it feels overwhelming and staged. So, who are the party conferences for?

I am writing this in the middle of party conference season and the British media is reporting and reacting to every soundbite at this year’s party conferences. The Tory Party has just wrapped up while the Labour Party’s is yet to come. Despite our two-party system, we cannot forget that the Green Party conference happened in the same week as the Conservatives and the Lib Dems in September. 

Everything is scrutinised by journalists, from the location to the speeches, and we’re made to believe that these annual party conferences are a big deal. Yet when I started to look a bit closer, they seemed less and less relevant to the average person. 

Before I go on, I must admit, I have never been to a party conference. Therefore, writing this column initially seemed a little hypocritical. However, I quickly realised that party membership hovers around 1-2%, therefore I am in the majority, not the minority. Researching further made me realise that people like me don’t join parties. 18–34-year-olds make up less than 20% of membership. To top it off, members of all parties are typically in their 50’s, male, middle-class, and overwhelming white (Party Members Project). 

Looking past the initial hurdle of membership, the conferences are packed with speeches, panels, discussions, and parties. That’s right, free tabs, drinks events and ‘discos’ are part of conference schedules that members can look forward to. Beyond political spectacle, sessions are an opportunity for members to come together in person from across the country rather than remaining localised or isolated on virtual calls. 

Britain’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaks during the tribute to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth at Britain’s Labour Party’s annual conference in Liverpool, Britain, September 25, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Members gain new status while they’re at the conference, often described as the ‘faithful’ or party ‘loyalists’ in the media. You would think that the conference would be all about them; an opportunity to discuss amongst themselves of what’s working (or not) in their party. Instead, party conferences seem primarily focused on creating media coverage fanfare. Especially with an election on the horizon, party conferences are yet another opportunity to speak to voters. But are the rest of us listening?

The jury is still out on whether party conferences really sway the average voter or not. Dramatic announcements can sway voters initially but arguably voters have already made up their minds. Parties will always have new announcements and policies that create headlines and they’re always pumped out on social media anyway. So why bother?

While it feels out of touch for the average voter, I don’t believe that party conferences are completely useless – despite my incendiary title. What should be carefully considered is the extent of news coverage to the point of overload. In an ever-saturated media landscape, the political party conference seems out of step with modern-day Britons. Conferences could bring greater value to the average person if they embrace their true intention of reaching voters. I see two choices, turning in and leaving the media parade behind or looking out and offering genuinely innovative ways to engage the wider public. 

Is the UK really a competitor to China?


“Britain is not a rival, it is not a competitor, it is not an enemy, it is not an adversary.” You would be forgiven for concluding from Chinese government spokesperson Vitor Gao’s remarks that China views the UK as irrelevant. But just how comparable are the two countries?

The Sino-UK relationship is currently under the media spotlight thanks to allegations of a Chinese government spy in UK parliament. This led political commentator Andrew Marr to invite Chinese government spokesperson Vitor Gao onto LBC to discuss the Chinese view of the Sino-UK relationship. When pressed on China’s opinion of the UK viewing it as a competitor, Gao’s response was a damning assessment of UK competition.

“What do China and Britain compete with? China is the largest manufacturer of automobiles, competing with Britain? No. China is the largest exporter of EV [electrical vehicle] cars…. Is Britain a competitor? No. China will be the biggest and most important producer and R&D in terms of semi-conductor in no time. Does that mean China competes with Britain? No. China will be the leading nation in AI revolution. Is Britain a competitor? No.”

Chinese media spokesperson, Vitor Gao speaks to LBC’s Andrew Marr, 2023

Chinese leader Xi Jinping with the late Queen Elizabeth II during a period of warmer Sino-UK relations. Getty Images, 2015.

Gao concluded by suggesting the UK government avoid overestimating its global impact. Below, we will explore just how comparable the UK and China truly are, and whether Gao’s remarks downplayed the importance of a global Britain or were a reality check for a declining, once great power in the world.

The sheer scale of China dwarfs the UK

First, to get a sense of the vast difference in scale of China and the UK, let us take a look at the geography.

According to the latest ONS data, the UK population stands at just over 67 million people. When compared to China’s 1.4 billion population, the UK population is less than 5% that of China. China’s population alone accounts for 18% of the world’s population. The UK accounts for just 0.9%.

China is the fourth largest country in the world with a land mass of 9.6 million km². China’s smallest province, Hainan, is three times larger than the largest county in the UK, Yorkshire.

In terms of infrastructure, particularly poignant following the government’s latest update that its attempt at high-speed rail will no longer connect its second and third largest cities, China has built a complete high-speed rail network, longer than the rest of the world’s combined, from scratch, in just 20 years.

The absolute scale of China dwarfs a tiny island nation like the UK. This is important to keep in mind when considering economic comparisons.

The Chinese economy is exceedingly big compared to the UK economy, but the UK remains richer

China is the largest economy in the world. The UK is the eleventh largest economy in the world. The World Bank estimates UK GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) hovers around $3 trillion. This figure is only a tenth that of China’s whopping $30 trillion GDP. This is unsurprising, given the vast differences in both population and size of the two countries outlined above.

Source: The Common Sense Network analysis of GDP (PPP) data from the World Bank, 2023.

Only when understood in terms of GDP per head of the population (per capita) can the two countries be compared. Using this figure, the UK’s GDP per capita (PPP) figure of $54,603 more than doubles that of China’s GDP per capita figure of $21,487. The UK is therefore richer than China on a person-to-person basis.

Source: The Common Sense Network analysis of GDP per capita (PPP) data from the World Bank, 2023.

Having sought to understand the big picture of a UK-China comparison, let us now delve deeper into Gao’s comments about UK-China competition.

UK-China trade has little overlap

Gao was right to conclude the UK and China are not competitors when it comes to the technologies of tomorrow.

A Chinese employee inspects semi-conductor technologies at the Smart Pioneer Electronics Co. factory in Suzhou, China. Getty Images, 2022.

The two countries have little trade overlap thanks to differing economic specializations. The UK is the second largest exporter of services in the world whereas China is a manufacturing-driven economy.

UK service specialization means market leadership in sectors such as life sciences, education, finance, and insurance. China specializes more in electrical goods, textiles and machinery.

But what for the industries outlined by Gao in his critique of UK competition: electric vehicles (EV), semi-conductors, and artificial intelligence (AI)?

These industries represent the key technologies of the future. Which of the UK and China is innovating more in these industries? China.

China leads the UK in future technologies

To understand EV, we can look at EV sales as a proportion of total vehicle sales and the accompanying EV charging infrastructure which will enable the transition.

China’s EV sales penetration rate (the percentage of total vehicle sales) currently stands at 33% for the year 2022. Whereas the UK EV sales penetration rate hovers around 23%. Taken alone, these figures suggest the two countries aren’t too far apart on EV progress.

However, when understood together with EV infrastructure, the UK lags far behind China. The UK has an EV to charging point ratio of 17:1. That is 17 vehicles to every 1 charging point. That compares to China’s much lower rate of 2.5:1.

China powers the electronics of the modern world, the UK doesn’t

Now, let us look at semi-conductors. Semi-conductors come in many forms but at the most basic level are best understood as the devices that allow electrical currents to be manipulated and thereby power many of the electronic devices we use today.

You will have likely read the recent media storm surrounding Huawei’s new Mate 60 Pro. The reason for the intense media coverage is the device’s inclusion of advanced semi-conductors industry leaders thought China was not yet capable of developing.

The UK is not a competitor in this regard, with industry experts admitting the UK isn’t going to be developing ‘the chips powering the latest smartphones’ instead fulfilling less advanced, more specialized market demands.

AI leadership is a global endeavour

Finally, on AI, China’s recent draft AI regulations demonstrate its leadership in the sector and in future technologies more broadly.

Whilst the UK has its own upcoming global AI summit demonstrating some degree of regulatory leadership, China is invited. This suggests the government agrees China is not a competitor in AI but a vital partner. Indeed, a McKinsey report back in 2019 concluded that while the UK is an industry leader within Europe, it doesn’t come close to China.

The UK isn’t a competitor to China, nor is it a rival. The UK must rethink its approach to China going forward if it wishes to be taken seriously on the international stage. An active foreign policy focused on co-operation not conflict is key if the UK is to inject its stagnating economy with some much needed vitality.