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China has changed since David Cameron’s ‘golden era,’ Rishi Sunak says

The former PM’s appointment as foreign secretary has led to speculation of a thawing of U.K.-China relations.


NOVEMBER 28, 2023

HAMPTON COURT PALACE, England — Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says China has changed since David Cameron’s “golden era” of close economic ties with the nation.

Sunak was speaking at the government’s second Global Investment Summit in Hampton Court Palace, where he was pressed on the countries’ relationship following David Cameron’s surprise appointment as foreign secretary.

“I think if David was here, what he would say is that China today is not the China that he dealt with over a decade ago,” Sunak said during a panel discussion at the summit. “It has changed; it’s right that our strategy evolves to take account of that.”

As prime minister, Cameron famously heralded a “golden era” of close economic relations with China, hosting President Xi Jinping for a state visit in 2015. He has since faced scrutiny over his role in promoting a controversial Chinese-built port city in Sri Lanka.

His appointment as foreign secretary has led to speculation of a thawing of U.K.-China relations.

Sunak said the U.K.’s strategy with regards to China could be summarized in three approaches: “protect, align and engage.”

“You’ve got to protect the U.K. against the risks where they manifest themselves,” he said, pointing to the government’s new National Security and Investment Act which “allows us to block investment in sensitive sectors.”

To ensure the U.K.’s approach is aligned with other nations, Sunak said he has spent “a lot of time talking to the [U.S.] president about their approach in the U.S. but also to the Australians, the Japanese.”

However, he stressed that it was also important to “engage” with China.

“Whether you like it or not, China is an indisputable fact of global economic life. There’s no solution to the world’s biggest problems whether that’s climate change, regulating AI appropriately and safely, tackling global public health, macroeconomic stability without engaging with China.

“And if you’ve taken the steps you need to protect yourselves then you should be able to engage with confidence to the benefits of our country and those global norms.”



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