UK Prime Ministerial contender Rishi Sunak on Monday said China was the “biggest threat” to Britain and world’s secuirty and also targeted countries from the US to India. To defend against Chinese “technological aggression”, Sunak outlined a number of measures he would undertake if elected PM, including building a new NATO-style military alliance of “free nations”.
Sunak said he would close all 30 Confucius Institutes in the UK – the highest in the world. The remarks come as Sunak has often been accused by the Opposition of being “soft” on China as Chancellor.
“China and the Chinese Communist Party represent the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century…I will build a new international alliance of free nations to tackle Chinese cyber-threats and share best practice in technology security,” PTI quoted Sunak as syaing.
“Given that there is evidence to suggest China has targeted countries from the United States to India, I am confident that I can create a broad alliance, including countries from all over the world,” Sunak further said.
Sunak said he would work with US President Joe Biden and other world leaders to “transform the West’s resilience to the threat posed by China”.
The Confucius Institutes, culture and language centres, are funded by the Chinese government. However, critics claim they are propaganda tools as relations between the West and China worsen.
“Almost all UK government spending on Mandarin language teaching at school is channelled through university-based Confucius Institutes, thereby promoting Chinese soft power,” Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, said.
Sunak also accused China of stealing UK technology and infiltrating universities while propping up Russia’s fascist invasion of Ukraine, bullying Taiwan and violating human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
“They are saddling developing countries with insurmountable debt and using this to seize their assets or hold a diplomatic gun to their heads. They torture, detain and indoctrinate their own people, including in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, in contravention of their human rights. And they have continually rigged the global economy in their favour by suppressing their currency,” PTI quoted Sunak as saying.
Sunak, who is facing Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to replace Boris Johnson as UK PM, also pledged to expand the reach of Britain’s security services to keep its “industrial espionage” in check.
“I will expand MI5’s reach to provide greater support to British businesses and universities to counter Chinese industrial espionage. We’ll work across government and with security services to build a toolkit to help companies protect their intellectual property,” he said.
“I will protect key British assets. That means examining the need to prevent Chinese acquisitions of key British assets including strategically sensitive tech firms,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)