The U.K. Prime Minister’s election is heating up, and the three signs below could make the Chinese authorities panic and worry.
On the evening of July 25, former British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the last two candidates in the contest for the Conservative Party leadership and British Prime Minister, participated in the debate in Stoke-on-Trent city, central England. Despite hot topics such as inflation, the Russo-Ukrainian war, and tense relations with the European Union, both have toughness against China. It means that regardless of who is chosen, whether it is former Finance Minister Sunak, whom the Chinese government regards as “pragmatic,” or Foreign Secretary Truss, whom the Chinese government regards as “hawkish,” the UK-China relationship cannot return to its “golden period.”
Ms. Truss accused Sunak of being flexible on China and Russia when he was Finance Minister. However, Sunak’s tough view on China appeared during Monday’s debate on BBC News.
Sunak, once described by China’s Global Times as “a candidate with a pragmatic attitude towards developing a balanced relationship with China,” changed his stance during the election campaign, calling China the “number one threat” to domestic and global security and criticizing the Chinese government’s crackdown on human rights to the Chinese people, as well as its economic plunder from numerous nations around the world, etc.
Sunak said: “Enough is enough. For too long, politicians in Britain and across the West have rolled out the red carpet and turned a blind eye to China’s nefarious activity and ambitions.”
This is campaign tactics, but it also represents a Conservative Party and British political consensus – that is, opposition to the Chinese government. This will significantly impact the course of relations between the United Kingdom and China.
Furthermore, the two contenders’ statements on ties with China outline the next probable step in the British foreign policy framework. Sunak, for example, advocated a variety of measures, such as:
- “Closing all 30 Confucius Institutes in the U.K. to prevent the Chinese government from using cultural and language initiatives to develop soft power;
- Requiring U.K. higher education institutions to report foreign financing above $60,000 and examine research collaborations to ban China from U.K. universities.
- Increase the British counterintelligence agency’s onslaught on Chinese spies.Establishing “NATO-style” international collaboration to combat the Chinese regime’s cyber-threat;
- Case study prohibiting China from acquiring vital U.K. assets, such as strategically sensitive technological firms, etc.”
Similarly, Truss has advocated for a harsher stance, urging the G7 to transform into an “economic NATO” in the face of Chinese threats and warning Beijing authorities of sanctions if they do not follow international laws.
The U.K. has been highly cautious about China, taking extensive preventative and countermeasures.
According to current affairs expert Wanghe, the Chinese government utilized the U.K. as a fulcrum to seduce Europe a few years ago. When Xi Jinping visited Britain in 2015, China and Britain were still hoping for a “golden decade.” When Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, he stated that he was “extremely pro-China” and that the U.K. was “the most open economy” in Europe to Chinese investment.
But why has the UK-China relationship changed fundamentally in just three years, with the U.K. even becoming the new vanguard against China as of 2021? In the Epoch Times, commentator Wanghe cited three primary reasons for this:
First, China expanded globally amid an economic boom. At this point, the U.S. awoke (to Chinese threats), and the Trump administration abandoned the previous policy by eliminating (warm) ties with China. The United Kingdom and the United States have always had a “special relationship.” Since Britain’s exit from the European Union, the strategic goals of “Global Britain” have been clearly defined, and strategic coordination between the United Kingdom and the United States towards China has been greatly strengthened.
Second, China has gravely harmed the U.K.’s interests. On the one hand, China has been invading the U.K. for a long time, presenting a national security concern; on the other hand, the Chinese government ruthlessly defeated Hong Kong’s anti-extradition pro-democracy movement in 2019 and demolished Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems.” By 2021, China’s “wolf warrior diplomacy” had resulted in a significant clash between China and Britain.
And third, the Indo-Pacific has emerged as a critical strategic area for Britain, and the country has intensified its transfer of political and economic attention to the region. On the economic front, Ms. Liz Truss, then Minister of Trade, represented the U.K. in achieving a free trade deal with Japan and Australia, two vital economic countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and began negotiating a free trade agreement with India in less than two years.
The United Kingdom formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in February 2021. Strategically and militarily, the most significant threat to be faced is the Chinese regime. Britain has joined forces with the United States and Australia to create a tripartite military alliance (AUKUS), and they work together to ensure the Indo-Pacific region’s prosperity and security.