Rishi Sunak takes tough stand against China, says ‘enough is enough’

Rishi Sunak was under pressure after Liz Truss accused him of assuming a weak stand on China and Russia. So, Britain's former finance minister spelt out the measures he would take to counter China's influence

Rishi Sunak, China stand
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, said Rishi Sunak. "I will change this on Day 1 as PM," he promised.

Even as opinion polls in Britain showed that Liz Truss is far ahead in the race for the Prime Minister’s post in Britain, Rishi Sunak, spelt out his stand on China and how he would “face down” the Asian giant, which he views as the “number one threat” to domestic and global security.

In the backdrop of the accusation made by his rival Liz Truss that he has taken a weak stand against China and Russia, the former finance minister promised to get tough with China if he becomes the Prime Minister of Britain. Liz Truss, his only rival in the race to lead the ruling Conservative party, and Sunak are also making their stance on China clear, after MI5 and the FBI have warned them about an increase in Chinese commercial espionage in the West.

Also read: Liz Truss takes 28-point lead over Rishi Sunak in race to become UK’s PM

Sunak’s plans to counter China’s growing influence


Even as Sunak went hammer and tongs against China, earlier, China’s state-run Global Times had pitched for Sunak saying he is the only candidate in the contest with “a clear and pragmatic view on developing UK-China ties”.

The Daily Mail, which backs foreign secretary Truss in the race to succeed Boris Johnson, said that nobody really wanted that “endorsement”.

Sunak, however, said that he would close all 30 Confucius Institutes in Britain and curtail Chinese influence spreading through culture and language programmes in the country.

He also said that he would “kick the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) out of our universities” . And he would do this by forcing higher education establishments to reveal their source of foreign funding of more than £50,000 ($60,000) and review research partnerships.

Further, Sunak said that he would use Britain’s domestic spy agency MI5 to counter Chinese espionage, and he would build “NATO-style” international cooperation to tackle Chinese threats in cyberspace. He would also study banning Chinese acquisitions of key British assets, including strategically sensitive tech firms.

Sunak claimed China was stealing their technology and infiltrating their universities”. Also, he criticised China’s global “belt and road” scheme for “saddling developing countries with insurmountable debt”.

Also read: UK PM race: Rishi Sunak faces Liz Truss in final leg of contest

Next, Sunak attacked China for torturing, detaining and indoctrinating their own people, including in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. It is an assault on human rights, he said, adding that China has continually rigged the global economy in their favour by suppressing their currency.

“Enough is enough,” he said. 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, he added. “I will change this on Day 1 as PM,” he affirmed.

Sunak’s tough-talk is all set to make Tory members against China happy, as they have constantly tried to get the former prime minister Johnson to stand up more to Beijing.

However, political observers feel that Sunak’s anti-China posturing reveals how he is desperately trying to claw back ground on Truss. Opinion polls place Truss far ahead of Sunak.

A winner will be announced on September 5. Truss has similarly urged a tougher approach, calling for the G7 to become an “economic NATO” against Chinese threats. She has warned Beijing of sanctions if they did not play by international rules. Meanwhile, her allies criticised Sunak for not doing more when he was finance minister.

“Over the last two years, the Treasury has pushed hard for an economic deal with China…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,” said a former Tory leader.

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