Rishi Sunak vowed to “face down” China when he went up against Liz Truss in the race to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister in the summer.
The UK’s “golden era” in relations with China “is over”, Rishi Sunak has declared.
The Prime Minister made the pivot away from the foreign policy put forward by ex-Chancellor George Osborne during his first major policy speech since entering Downing Street.
Mr Sunak made the comments at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday night.
He also warned that it was a “naive idea” to think that a free trade deal with Beijing would result in the emergence of democracy.
However, the Prime Minister also indicated that the West should not look to return to Cold War-style hostilities.
He instead argued: “We cannot simply ignore China’s significance in world affairs.”
However, Mr Sunak’s comments have been criticised by a number of politicians, including ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Sir Iain said: “I don’t agree that we want ‘robust pragmatism’ – what we have to recognise is China is posing a greater and greater threat to the way we live our lives.”
Mr Sunak’s speech has been considered a pivot away from Liz Truss’ stance on Beijing during her short stint in Number 10. The Prime Minister even indicated earlier this month that he would not echo his predecessor’s comments that China is a “threat”.
Ex-Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who is mulling over a return to frontline politics, responded to Mr Sunak’s speech on social media.
He said: “All it has ever been is the Tories selling out our country — as they always do.”
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy also slammed Mr Sunak’s major speech.
“All it shows is that once again the Conservative Government is flip-flopping its rhetoric on China.”
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