Rishi Sunak China stance: ‘Where have you been?’ Tories question ex-Chancellor

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Conservative members should start receiving their final leadership ballots today, with electronic and paper versions bound for homes within and outside the UK. Their decisions over the next few weeks will decide whether Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss replaces Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. But they can’t finalise their ballots until they understand the candidates’ positions on all the UK’s most vital issues, such as Chinese influence.

What is Rishi Sunak’s stance on China?

China is currently a top concern among many Conservatives, as the party has long hosted the country’s most hawkish figures.

Several MPs within the party are currently on Chinese sanctions lists for speaking out against the leading CCP.

While neither Ms Truss nor Mr Sunak is among them, they have taken hard-line stances against the increasingly influential world power.

Mr Sunak is the less established of the two, but he has sought to draw level with the foreign secretary, who has clashed with China on the International stage.

He said the country represents the “largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century”.

Mr Sunak has proposed one sweeping policy that would clamp down on its soft power presence within British academia.

He would target the Confucius Institute, a network established in 2004 to create educational and cultural promotion programmes in other countries.

The UK currently has 30 institute branches resident in UK universities, and Mr Sunak has proposed banning all of them.

The move would likely prove popular among many Conservatives, and Mr Sunak said he would back it up by protecting British industry.

He promised that a set of national security laws drafted by his Government would protect the UK from Chinese investment.

And he also pledged to build a “Nato-style” international network that would stand firm against Chinese cyber threats.

While the policies are hard-line, Ms Truss’ allies have accused Mr Sunak of arriving late to the party.

Noted China hawk Sir Iain Duncan Smith asked the former Chancellor: “Where have you been over the last two years?”

Sir Iain, who joined his colleagues on the Chinese sanction list, touted the foreign secretary’s track record in comparison.

In a comment piece for the Daily Telegraph, he said she played a “pivotal role” in resisting China.

He said she “started to rebuild the vital alliances in the Pacific region required to counterbalance China” as international trade secretary and “led the G7 to call out the economic coercion of China” in December 2021.

Other allies have alleged Mr Sunak held a “soft” stance towards China and was poised to embrace the nation.

He had planned to restart the UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue in 2022.

Although ultimately cancelled, the event would have become the first UK-Chinese event of its kind since 2019.

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