Ian Williams

Ian Williams

Ian Williams is a former foreign correspondent for Channel 4 News and NBC, and author of The Fire of the Dragon: China’s New Cold War (Birlinn).

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan remains unlikely

For a second day, yesterday, Chinese fighter jets and warships surrounded Taiwan for drills which the People’s Liberation Army said were designed to ‘test the ability to jointly seize power, launch joint attacks and occupy key areas’. They followed the inauguration earlier this week of Taiwan’s new and democratically elected president Lai Ching-te, who Beijing

Putin and Xi’s anti-West alliance is strengthening

The visit by Russian president Vladimir Putin to the north-eastern Chinese city of Harbin today was no doubt designed as a symbol of the tightening economic relationship between the two countries. Harbin is a gateway for their burgeoning trade; the Russian leader was there to open a China-Russia expo. In the minds of many Chinese

Chinese society is rapidly militarising

The reports in China’s state media speak about ‘advancing national defence education in the new era’, teaching students to be ‘disciplined’, and ‘promoting the spirit of hard work and inspiring patriotism’. But behind the stultifying Communist party jargon is a new law that will force school children to undergo miliary training and which marks another

Why is the UK not blaming China for the MoD hack?

The personal details of members of the UK’s armed forces appear to have been the latest target of China’s prolific cyber spies, with the Ministry of Defence’s payroll system containing the names, bank details and some addresses of up to 272,000 people on its books targeted by hackers. The government though is directing its fury

Why was Blinken’s China visit so underwhelming?

It had been billed as an electrifying encounter – the US Secretary of State preparing to confront Beijing with a catalogue of global misdemeanours, ranging from stepped up support for Russian aggression against Ukraine to the intimidation of ships in the South China Sea belonging to US treaty ally, the Philippines, and the systematic breaking

Why the EU is raiding Chinese companies

The target of Wednesday’s dawn raid has been on the radar of western security services for some time. There has been growing concern that Nuctech, which manufactures airport baggage scanners for European airports and ports, poses a potentially serious risk to national security. But the European Union officials who raided the Warsaw and Rotterdam offices

The trouble with David Cameron’s China links

In the years following his resignation as prime minister, David Cameron appeared to become the poster child for elite capture by the Chinese Communist party. This is a term used to describe the process by which the CCP co-opts former officials and business people, usually through lucrative jobs and contracts with CCP-linked entities. Usually the officials have

The rusting Philippine ship raising US-China tensions

The rusting and disintegrating hulk of a former Second World War landing ship has become an unlikely but dangerous flashpoint in US-China relations. The Sierra Madre, built for the US navy to land tanks, has for several decades been stranded on a shoal in the South China Sea. But now it has become a symbol of Beijing’s growing aggression in the region

Hungary has become China’s useful idiot

This week a security deal was announced that could see Chinese police on the streets of Hungary. Despite this, there was remarkably little fanfare about the agreement – just a few vague details in public statements made days after the deal was signed between the interior ministers of the two countries. Yet is represents another

China calls the shots in its alliance with Russia

There has been a strange atmosphere at recent top level meetings between ‘best friends’ China and Russia. It is not so much the elephant in the room as the pipeline running through it, with Moscow almost over-eager to talk about what has been billed as one of their most important joint economic projects, while Beijing

Taiwan’s voters defy Beijing

Taiwan’s voters have defied Beijing’s threats and intimidation and elected as president the most independence-minded of the candidates for the job. After a typically boisterous election, Lai Ching-te of the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) declared victory Saturday evening, having received just over 40 per cent of the vote in Taiwan’s first-past-the-post system. ‘We’ve written a new

Why has Xi Jinping purged his senior commanders?

The Chinese Communist party will no doubt throw a militarised tantrum should Saturday’s election in Taiwan be won by Lai Ching-te, the more independence-minded of the candidates. Yet behind these histrionics lies an army in turmoil, with a purge of top generals raising serious doubts as to whether it is up to the task of

How China weaponises its cuddly giant pandas

So Yang Guang and Tian Tian are on their way back to China. Rather like a pair of high-profile celebrities, the giant pandas travelled in convoy to Edinburgh airport this morning, with every detail of their last days in the UK scrutinised in dewy-eyed detail. They’re not travelling business class, not quite, but they do

Power shifts at the Biden-Xi summit

Perhaps the most important achievement of the summit between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden was that it was held at all. Expectations were set low and were duly met – assuming the modest agreements are carried through. There was little progress on issues that have pushed relations to the lowest point in four decades, and

Can China contain Evergrande’s collapse?

The Chinese Communist party appears set to kill off its largest economic zombie, while gambling that it can control the fallout. Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer, first defaulted almost two years ago, as China’s property bubble began to burst. It has since been able to stagger on from one crisis to another, while struggling

The mystery of China’s missing ministers

Two down and who knows how many more to go. This week, Defence Minister Li Shangfu became the latest of China’s top leaders to vanish, reportedly caught up in a corruption scandal. He has not been seen for three weeks and his disappearance comes three months after that of foreign minister, Qin Gang, and follows

James Cleverly is clueless on China

At least James Cleverly had somebody to meet. The Foreign Secretary’s last effort to get to Beijing was postponed after his Chinese counterpart disappeared in late June. Former foreign minister Qin Gang has not been seen or heard of since. Gang’s whereabouts are as mysterious as Cleverly’s China policy, which is beginning to feel a