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UK-China relationship falls victim to Truss-Sunak battle to succeed PM Johnson

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LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Rivals to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson are locked in a battle to take the toughest line on China, firmly drawing a line under the much-vaunted golden age of Sino-British relations.

Tory leadership favorite Ms. Liz Truss has called Chinese tech giants a security risk, called for arming Taiwan and privately called the Chinese crackdown in Xinjiang a genocide, according to informations. Mr Rishi Sunak called China ‘the greatest long-term threat to Britain’.

“There is a perception that China is actually more of a relationship with a hostile state, so you should reconsider all areas of engagement,” said Ms. Julia Pamilih, head of research at the China Research Group, set up by scientists. Conservative MPs to examine Sino-British relations. .

If Ms Truss or Mr Sunak take a hardline approach when either of them becomes Prime Minister on September 5, they will weaken their ties with Britain’s third largest trading partner – a major source of cheap imports – just at a time when the cost of living crisis is at its worst, with double-digit inflation.

They will be in line with the United States, which wants its allies to support them in tackling China more clearly on human rights issues.

But amid fears over the involvement of China-backed companies in critical UK infrastructure, the new leader will also turn off the investment taps that fellow Tories David Cameron and George Osborne sought to turn on just a short time ago. seven years when they were Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In 2015, the pair said Britain would be China’s “best partner in the West”, promising a “golden era” in relations. Now, Ms. Truss and Mr. Sunak apparently calculate that some degree of economic harm is an acceptable price to pay for upholding Western principles.

“There will be a cost in terms of diplomatic relations and probably Chinese willingness to invest in investment projects here,” said Royal United Services Institute chairman David Lidington, Ms Theresa’s de facto deputy. May when she was prime minister.

Still, “the Chinese will look at actions rather than slogans.” Much has changed since the era of David Cameron amid China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Uyghur ethnic group, the suppression of civil liberties in Hong Kong and President Xi Jinping’s failure to condemn Russia for the war in Ukraine. This prompted Britain, the United States and the European Union to take a tougher stance.

“For too long politicians in Britain and the West have rolled out the red carpet and turned a blind eye to China’s nefarious activities and ambitions,” Mr Sunak said last month. “They are stealing our technology and infiltrating our universities. And abroad they are supporting Putin’s fascist invasion of Ukraine by buying up its oil and trying to intimidate their neighbors, including Taiwan.”

Hyping the threat

Earlier this year, when Mr Sunak was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Treasury officials drafted an agreement to deepen trade ties with China, but that move was canceled and appears unlikely to be revived.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Mr Sunak and Ms Truss of “exaggerating the so-called Chinese threat” for political one-upmanship.

The Chinese government is less concerned about Mr Sunak than Ms Truss – the undisputed frontrunner. He is trying to discern what approach she would take as prime minister, two people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Ms Truss used her opening speech as Foreign Secretary in 2021 to characterize China as a strategic threat contrasting with the “network of freedom” she wanted with allies such as the United States and the Australia.

This alliance was strengthened with the creation of the Aukus partnership, designed to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

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