London: In his first major foreign policy speech Monday night at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London, the British prime minister said he wanted to “evolve” Britain’s approach to one of Asia’s largest economies. He also criticized China’s human rights record. However, he acknowledged that the UK “cannot easily ignore the importance of China in world affairs”, so his approach would be one of “resolute pragmatism” over the longer term.
Sunak, referring to the statement used during the Conservative Party government led by David Cameron about seven years ago, said, ‘It should be clear that the so-called ‘Golden Age’ is over, as well as the naive idea that trade will lead to social and political reform,’ he said, ‘nor should we rely on simplistic Cold War rhetoric. We believe that China presents a systemic challenge to our values and interests, a challenge that grows more serious as it moves towards ever more totalitarianism.’
Sunak criticized China for anti-lockdown protests in the country and the arrest and assault of a BBC journalist over the weekend, saying that instead of listening to people’s concerns, the government has decided to act. “The media and our lawmakers should highlight these issues, including abuses in Xinjiang and curtailing freedoms in Hong Kong,” he said.
“Of course, we cannot easily ignore China’s importance in global affairs for global economic stability or issues such as climate change,” Sunak said. America, Canada, Australia, Japan and many others also understand this. So together we will manage this intense competition with diplomacy and partnership.
Sunak, who became Britain’s prime minister last month, faced criticism for his soft stance towards China during the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party. His first major foreign policy speech appears to have been intended to dispel any such perception.
FIRST PUBLISHED : November 29, 2022, 20:17 IST
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