Former U.K. Chancellor and candidate for Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, called China Britain’s main threat ahead of a scheduled Monday night TV debate with his opponent and fellow Tory, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
“China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) represent the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century,” he said in a statement, as he outlined actions he would take as Prime Minister. Mr. Sunak faces Ms. Truss in an internal Conservative party election, in which some 1,60,000 Tories will elect their next party leader and PM. The winner is expected to be announced on September 5, following hustings and voting through August.
Mr. Sunak said he would close down 30 Confucius Institutes in the U.K., saying they were promoting China’s soft power via Mandarin. The institutes are funded by the Chinese government and have, significantly, also become controversial in the U.S.
Mr. Sunak also said he would create an international alliance to tackle Chinese cybercrime, enhance MI5’s ability to counter Chinese industrial espionage in universities and firms, and protect important British assets, including possibly preventing acquisition of sensitive assets.
One of Ms. Truss’s backers, Tory MP and former Conservative party leader Ian Duncan Smith, responded to Mr. Sunak, as per reports, “I have one simple question, where have you been over the last two years?” Mr. Smith was sanctioned by Beijing last year.
Monday night’s debate is likely to include the candidates’ proposed China policies in addition to issues that have come to the fore in previous debates — such as migration and plans to handle the economy and combat inflation, which is at a 40-year high of 9.4%.
Ms. Truss leads Mr. Sunak by a considerable margin in terms of bookmaker’s odds, although he came first in the intra-party contest to reach the final stage of voting, with only fellow Tory MPs voting. Last week, she led Mr. Sunak by 19% , head to head, in a poll conducted by YouGov.