Rishi Sunak warns against a 'cold war' with China despite increasing 'authoritarianism'

Rishi Sunak accused China of sinking deeper into authoritarianism, warning that it presented an acute challenge to British values ​​and interests.

In his first foreign policy speech as prime minister, Sunak vowed to reshape British foreign policy in response to "increased competition" from Beijing. But he warned against "simple Cold War rhetoric" in China, and insisted he would continue to use "diplomacy and complicity" in dealing with the communist-run country.

His comments were denounced as "weak" by critics, following the arrest and beating of BBC journalist Ed Lawrence who was covering demonstrations in Shanghai.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who was sanctioned by Beijing over his record of speaking out about abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, told The Independent that Sunak's promise to pursue a policy of "diplomacy and engagement" with China was "disgraceful".

And Labor accused the PM of "flip-flopping" in China, just months after Sunak told voters in a Tory leadership contest that the country and its communist leaders represent "the greatest threat to Britain and the world's security and prosperity this century".

Mr Sunak's speech follows reports that the protests taking place in the streets of Chinese cities against Covid restrictions have been met with a strong police response.

In an annual foreign policy address by the prime minister at the Mayor's Banquet in London, Sunak promised an "evolutionary leap" in Britain's approach to repressive regimes around the world, which he said would be characterized by "vigorous pragmatism".

In an unusually sharp criticism of efforts by his predecessor David Cameron, and Cameron's chancellor, George Osborne, to forge closer ties with emerging economic superpowers, he declared their dream of a "golden era" in British-China relations to be dead, and said it was “naive” to expect increased trade to lead to social and political reforms.

But he also warned against the "Cold War rhetoric" of some of his critics, who have seen the rivalry between China and the West as a replay of the standoff with the Soviet Union that froze international relations for much of the 20th century. .

"We recognize China poses a systemic challenge to our values ​​and interests, a challenge that will become more acute as it moves towards greater authoritarianism," the prime minister said.

But he added: “We cannot simply ignore China's significance in world affairs, to global economic stability or to issues like climate change. The US, Canada, Australia, Japan and many others also understand this. So together we will manage this sharpened competition, including with diplomacy and engagement."

Mr Sunak said his new approach would be guided by the need to improve Britain's economic security, referring to measures such as removing Chinese giant Huawei from its 5G phone network and blocking the sale of semiconductor factory Newport Wafer Fab to China-owned companies.

And he said Britain must “end global dependence on authoritarian regimes – starting with Russian gas”.

But aides say that, while remaining "clear-minded" about the clash between Chinese and British values, Sunak wants to build a "constructive" relationship with Beijing in the long term.

Sir Iain told The Independent: “'Strong pragmatism' is meaningless. You can't run two separate policies in parallel with a country like China. It will be seen by them as weakness, and to me it looks and sounds like appeasement.

The former Conservative leader said Sunak should use his current rewriting of the Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy to elevate China from a "competitor" to a "threat" to Britain's national interests, placing it alongside Russia.

“America and Australia, all those countries are much tougher with China while we drag our feet,” said Sir Iain. "I think it's embarrassing."

Labor's shadow foreign secretary David Lammy described the speech as "watery mush".

"All of that shows that once again the Conservative government has erred in its rhetoric towards China," he said. "Instead of talking, we need policies. The government urgently needs to publicize its long-promised China strategy, as well as an update on the Outdated Integrated Review.”

Senior Tory MP Alicia Kearns, chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said Britain should cooperate with Beijing on "many things", but stressed it was critical to "get our red lines clear".

"We can't just cut them off and have no relationship with them – that's where pragmatism comes in," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One. "But we also have to be very careful, and we have to protect our interests, and we have to clarify our red lines. Rishi promised that he would change China's policy on day one, and we haven't seen that yet.”This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS. 

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