New Delhi: Rishi Sunak, the UK’s former finance minister who is in the race to become the country’s Prime Minister, has termed China the “largest threat” to UK and the world at large and promised to counter alleged Chinese industrial espionage, cyber threats and tech acquisitions if elected to the PM’s post.
1/ China and the Chinese Communist Party represent the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century.
Read this thread👇on how I will face down China. pic.twitter.com/VSD88gfG68
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) July 25, 2022
While announcing his policies Monday, the UK PM aspirant said, “China and the Chinese Communist Party represent the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century”.
Sunak, who is of Indian origin, is up against British foreign secretary Liz Truss for the PM’s post. After the two engage in a series of hustings and debates, in which they will defend their policies, the Conservative Party will participate in a vote. The winner, who will ultimately become the PM, will be announced on 5 September.
Sunak put forth four broad promises if voted to power — banning Chinese Confucious centers, expanding the reach of the Mi5 security service, building a “NATO-style” international alliance and protecting “strategically sensitive” UK tech firms from “Chinese acquisitions”.
To counter China’s “soft power”, Sunak said he planned to close all 30 of China’s Confucius Institutes in the UK.
Confucius Institutes are China-funded educational and cultural centers that offer Chinese language courses, train teachers and hold the HSK Examination (Chinese proficiency test). Last March, the US Senate approved a bill that would tighten oversight on Confucius Institutes that operate on US campuses.
According to Sunak, “Almost all UK government spending on Mandarin language teaching at school is channelled through university-based Confucius Institutes, thereby promoting Chinese soft power.”
The UK PM hopeful also proposed expanding the reach of the UK’s intelligence agency, Mi5, to provide greater support to British businesses and universities.
“We’ll work across government and with security services to build a toolkit to help companies protect their intellectual property,” said Sunak.
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Countering industrial espionage, protecting British assets
To tackle alleged Chinese cyber threats, Sunak proposed the building of a new “NATO-style” international alliance of free nations, who can also share best practice in technology security.
He has also vowed to protect key British assets by examining the need to prevent Chinese acquisitions of strategically sensitive tech firms.
According to a news report, Sunak’s proposed policies came after his rival in the election, Truss, accused him of being weak on China and Russia.
Earlier this month, Chinese mouthpiece Global Times had described Sunak as one of the only individuals in the race to become prime minister with “a clear and pragmatic view on developing UK-China ties”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded to Sunak’s plans by accusing him of “hyping up” the threat of China.
“I won’t comment on the UK’s Conservative Party leadership election, which is an internal affair of the UK,” said Zhao in a press conference Monday.
He added: “I want to make it clear to certain British politicians that making irresponsible remarks about China, including hyping up so-called ‘China threat’, cannot solve one’s own problems.”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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