Mr Cleverly was referring to allegations against China over cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns, as well as a UN report on China’s treatment of Uyghurs and human rights violations.
Beijing has, however, denounced the assessment as a fabrication cooked up by Western nations.
Despite these areas of tension, Mr Cleverly acknowledged that China, through its economic growth, has lifted millions of people out of poverty, calling it a “positive thing”.
“China has become an international trading partner not just to the members of ASEAN but to us in the UK … and Europe as well. That is a good thing. But what we want to see is a future relationship with China, where its activities are more in line with the international rules and norms that we subscribe to,” he told CNA.
“That is good for China. That is good for its trading partners, and we want to see a future relationship with China where there is no question about the nature of the relationship, that the relationship should be a positive one and economically beneficial one.”
THE BRITISH POUND AND INVESTORS
Mr Cleverly’s visit to Singapore, his first as foreign secretary, is aimed at underscoring the UK’s partnership with the country, ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific region.
During the wide-ranging interview with CNA, he also addressed investor confidence following the pound’s fall to a record low against the US dollar in a scathing appraisal of the UK’s tax cut plan.
When asked about what he would tell Southeast Asian businesses that may be apprehensive about investing in the UK, Mr Cleverly urged them to remember the reasons they been confident about doing so in the past.
“We’ve got stable institutions, a well-educated and highly motivated society, and we are real innovation hub,” he said.
This is the case not just in the traditional focal points for international investment like London and the south-east, but across the country, he noted, highlighting regions around Manchester, Birmingham, Wales and Scotland.
There have been innovations and “fantastic opportunities” to help the UK’s economy grow and to give investors good returns, Mr Cleverly added.
“What I would say is look at this longitudinally, … the pound exchange rate is the same match as what you’d see in a lot of other currencies around the globe. But ultimately, Britain is a good investment opportunity for all the reasons that we’ve always been,” he said.
Watch the full interview with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on In Conversation, Oct 5, 9pm SIN/HK on CNA.