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UK PM Debate: Rishi Sunak’s Stance on China Scares Beijing, Chinese Embassy Responds

By: News Desk


Last Updated: July 26, 2022, 13:56 IST


Candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss take part in the BBC Conservative party leadership debate (Image: Reuters)

Candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss take part in the BBC Conservative party leadership debate (Image: Reuters)

The Chinese embassy were surprised as Rishi Sunak detailed his plans on countering Chinese aggression and the soft power Beijing wields in the UK PM debate.

In the latest televised debate between UK PM contenders Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss on Monday, issues related to China, Russia and the UK’s national security took centre stage.

Both contenders listed numerous ways in which they plan to counter Moscow and Beijing, but Rishi Sunak provided more clarity with his plans.

After saying that he will close down all the 30 Confucius Institutes in the UK, Sunak pointed out that UK’s businesses and universities are also threatened by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“I will expand MI5’s reach to provide greater support to British businesses and universities to counter Chinese industrial espionage. We’ll work across government and with security services to build a toolkit to help companies protect their intellectual property,” Sunak said in a tweet after his debate with foreign secretary Liz Truss.

Liz Truss said that the Global Times editorial ‘effectively endorsed’ Sunak. However, Sunak earned the ire of the CCP shortly after the debate, with the Chinese embassy in the UK condemning his hawkish stance.

“UK politicians’ tough remarks on China will not solve its own problems and will only lead it further in the wrong direction,” the Global Times said in a tweet quoting a spokesperson from the Chinese embassy who expressed concern over Sunak’s remarks.

Sunak is also planning to build another multinational organisation to counter China. China is already facing heat from the Quad, IPEF and AUKUS grouping and Sunak said, if elected prime minister, he will build a ‘new international alliance of free nations’ to tackle China.

He said he also plans to protect key British assets. “I will protect key British assets. That means examining the need to prevent Chinese acquisitions of key British assets including strategically sensitive tech firms,” Sunak tweeted.

However, Truss’ backers chose to attack Sunak over the concerns he had regarding London-Beijing ties. It was reported that he told Boris Johnson that the relationship must be ‘mature and balanced’, with regard to security concerns with the 5G network supplier, Huawei and also advocated for a closer trading relationship, when he was serving as the chancellor to the exchequer.

But Liz Truss was also equally accommodating of the CCP when she in 2016 said that UK-China ties are entering a “golden era". She was also a member of the cabinet when the memorandum of understanding was signed leading to the setting up of Confucius Institutes across the UK.

The Opinium poll following the debate showed that both Truss and Sunak performed well. Sunak was ahead with 39% while Truss got the approval of 38% of the viewers.

On Ukraine

Regarding Ukraine, Liz Truss said that she as prime minister would not want the UK to become directly involved in war with Russia. “Ukraine is not a NATO country. It would be wrong to directly deploy our troops and resources,” Truss said.

Sunak batted for the government from which he resigned and presented a united response in the debate. He said he was ‘incredibly proud’ of the UK’s response to ‘Russian aggression’.

“We can all as a country be enormously proud of the contribution and leadership that the UK has shown in standing up to Russia, and that will continue to whoever becomes the prime minister,” Sunak said, extending support to the government of which Truss is a member.

There were also moments of camaraderie between the former colleagues. “There is far more that unites us than that we disagree on,” Sunak said. Liz suggested that if Sunak becomes the PM, he should be ‘bold’.

“We’re the same team and the same family.” Sunak said.

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    Sunak and Truss said they will come together and work for the entirety of the UK. They said they are ready to work together in the government as well.

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    first published:July 26, 2022, 13:16 IST
    last updated:July 26, 2022, 13:56 IST