By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Aug 2: The two candidates vying for the UK’s Prime ministerial seat, following Boris Johnson controversial resignation, have vowed to be tougher on China if elected. Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the current foreign secretary Liz Truss are both conservative candidates who have pledged to counter Chinese influence in the UK.
Candidate Rishi Sunak called China- the world’s ‘number-one threat’ to domestic and global security. “As prime minister, I’ll take a very, very robust view on making sure that we do stand up for our values and we protect ourselves against those threats, because that’s the right thing to do for our security,” he said in one of the televised presidential debates. Sunak also put forward a proposal which included the closure of all 30 Confucius Institutes in Britain, which he said would prevent the Chinese soft-power influence through culture and language programs.
His opponent Liz Truss said that companies like TikTok should not exist, “We should absolutely be cracking down on those types of companies and we should be limiting the amount of technology exports we do to authoritarian regimes.” Truss also talked about the human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government as well as its support for Russian war against Ukraine, “After the appalling abuses in Xinjiang, after the terrible actions on Hong Kong and the most recent outrage, which is China working with Russia and essentially backing them in the appalling war in Ukraine, we have to take a tougher stance. We have to learn from the mistakes we made of Europe becoming dependent on Russian oil and gas. We cannot allow that to happen with China. And freedom is a price worth paying.”
China was quick to respond to the candidates competing pledges to the British public as to who would be tougher on China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian criticized the language used in the debates, “I would like to urge certain British politicians not to make an issue out of China or hype the so-called China threat.”
The Chinese state mouthpiece Global Times said that the two candidates are only using China as a plug to win the elections, “Encouraging Sinophobia and letting their people believe that the UK should blame and fear China when they are suffering from internal woes is total nonsense but an easy choice, said analysts.”