Foreign Office tells officials not to call China and Russia hostile states

The Foreign Office has come under fire for telling Government officials not to describe countries like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran as “hostile states”.

The move is understood to be aimed at improving diplomatic relations with Beijing.

A Government official in another department is said to have had a recent submission rejected by the Foreign Office and asked for an explanation.

The official was told that “states aren’t inherently hostile themselves, they just do hostile things”, The Times reported.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a China hawk, branded the change “pathetic”.

Sir Iain said: “It’s pathetic. Our position towards China is that we’ll deal with it with robust pragmatism but often you can’t be robust and pragmatic at the same time.

“This is Orwellian political speak in which you invent terms that are themselves meaningless to describe genuine dangerous and difficult circumstances because you have an ulterior motive such as not frightening your own people or not to upset those you are dealing with. The idea that China is not a hostile state is absurd.

“Chinese companies in the UK are data harvesting and using things like social media sites like TikTok for the Chinese state.

“All Chinese companies are obligated under the national security law to give all data that they glean, when requested, to the Chinese state. None of them are free enterprises.”

Government documents, including the 2021 integrated review of the UK’s security, defence and foreign policy, have been edited to replace the phrase “hostile states” with “hostile actors”.

A source said the Foreign Office advised officials to stop using the term due to advice that it was legally ambiguous, with “hostile actors” giving the Government better “legal grounding”.

A Government spokesman said: “The integrated review refresh uses a range of terms to describe the activities of state and non-state actors, including ‘state threats’.

“This terminology is agreed across government and is widely used by our allies.

“The Government continues to take strong action to counter state threats against the UK, including measures to protect our supply chains from China’s coercive economic activity and the announcement last week of a new sanctions regime targeting Iran.”

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