Branding China biggest threat to UK is not ‘smart’, says Sunak – despite making claim last year
By Harry Cole
March 12, 2023
CALLING China the biggest threat to Britain is not "smart or sophisticated” Rishi Sunak said last night -- despite doing just that last year.
However, the now PM said last year that Beijing was the 'largest threat' to our securityCredit: AP
Today a new review of the threats faced to the UK will be published, with the language on China fudged to avoid a fall out with Communist superpower.
While it will accuse China of threatening the UK's economic interests it will stop short of branding it a hostile state, instead focussing on the economic threat posed by "systematic challenger."
Speaking ahead of the publication of the Integrated Review Refresh, Mr Sunak told reporters: "I don't think it's kind of smart or sophisticated foreign policy to reduce our relationship with China, which after all is a country with one and a half billion people, the second biggest economy and a member of the UN Security Council to just two words."
But his comments will be seen as a direct challenge to anti-China Tory MPs who have been pushing for a harder line over Beijing's Covid lies, human rights abuses and China's clampdown on Hong Kong democracy.
Mr Sunak also faced questions last night about his softening on his own tough talk, having previously said China was "stealing our technology and infiltrating our universities” and “propping up” Vladimir Putin.
In August 2022 Sunak said: “They torture, detain and indoctrinate their own people, including in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, in contravention of their human rights.
"And they have continually rigged the global economy in their favour by suppressing their currency,”
But last night he said: "When it comes to global affairs, you can't ignore China.
"Given the size of their economy, it is necessary and right to engage with them in order to try and make a difference on things that we care about."
During the flight to California, the PM also dodged questions about whether he believed Covid originated in a Chinese lab as the US Government have said.
He insisted: "I would say there are lots of different theories."
Sunak faced questions over whether China was 'propping up' Vladimir PutinCredit: AFP