Tory Leadership Contenders Accuse Each Other Of Being Soft On China

The latest salvos come just hours before Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss square up in a crunch TV debate.
Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China.
Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China.
Bob Martin for OIS via PA Media

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have attacked one another’s records on standing up to China.

The former chancellor will use a speech to accuse western politicians - including the foreign secretary - of turning “a blind eye” to the threat posed by the country.

But supporters of Truss have hit back at her rival by claiming the Treasury sought closer ties with China when Sunak was in charge there.

The latest row between the pair comes as they prepare to go head-to-head in a live TV debate on the BBC at 9pm tonight.

In his speech, Sunak will promise to close all 30 of China’s Confucius Institutes in the UK.

Funded by the Chinese Government, they are ostensibly culture and language centres but critics have labelled them propaganda tools amid worsening relations between the West and China.

“I will stop China taking over our universities, and get British companies and public institutions the cyber-security they need, Sunak will say. “And I will work with President Biden and other world leaders to transform the West’s resilience to the threat China poses,.”

In a clear swipe at Truss, he will say: “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.”

But Iain Duncan Smith, a Truss supporter and co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said: “This ‘tough on China’ announcement is surprising.

“After all, over the last two years, the Treasury has pushed hard for an economic deal with China.

“This is despite China sanctioning myself and four UK parliamentarians. Despite China brutally cracking down on peaceful democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, threatening Taiwan, illegally occupying the South China Sea, committing genocide on the Uyghurs and increasing its influence in our Universities.

“After such a litany, I have one simple question, where have you been over the last two years?”

Education secretary James Cleverly, who is also supporting Liz Truss, told Times Radio: “We have already been looking at the influence China has on our education system - it might be new to Sunak’s campaign.”

A spokesperson for Truss said: “Liz has strengthened Britain’s position on China since becoming foreign secretary and helped lead the international response to increased Chinese aggression.

“This will only continue when she becomes prime minister and seeks to expand her network of liberty around the world.”


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