Tory leadership and PM contender Rishi Sunak will say today (25 July) that China is the biggest long-term threat to Britain, citing the views of the director general of MI5 and head of the FBI.
Sunak is to unveil plans to curb China’s “soft power” by closing all of the 30 Confucius Institutes, which promote the teaching of Chinese language and culture, if he becomes prime minister.
Sunak has also accused leadership rival Liz Truss of enabling Beijing’s infiltration of British universities.
Setting out his foreign-policy position, the former chancellor said that China and the Chinese Communist Party were the “biggest long-term threat” to the UK.
The Chinese Communist Party-sponsored Confucius Institutes teach Mandarin in universities and schools.
Taking aim at Truss
His team pointed out that nine of the 31 Confucius centres in Britain were established when Liz Truss was an education minister between 2012 and 2014.
Mr Sunak said on Sunday night: “Enough is enough. For too long, politicians in Britain and across the West have rolled out the red carpet and turned a blind eye to China’s nefarious activity and ambitions.”
The Conservative has taken a harder line on China’s Xi Jinping administration, including the crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong, a restrictive national security law, and so-called electoral reforms in the former British colony.
Mutual sanctions have been in place over China’s treatment of Uyghurs in its far-western Xinjiang region.
‘Stealing our technology’
“At home, they are stealing our technology and infiltrating our universities,” the former chancellor will say in today’s speech.
“And abroad, they are propping up Putin’s fascist invasion of Ukraine by buying his oil and attempting to bully their neighbours, including Taiwan.”
Sunak will also criticise the Chinese government for “saddling developing countries with insurmountable debt and using this to seize their assets or hold a diplomatic gun to their heads”, as well as torturing, detaining and indoctrinating their own citizens in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Sunak is pledging to ban all 30 of China’s Confucius Institutes in the UK, claiming that Beijing’s soft power is enhanced by the taxpayer-funded teaching of Mandarin.
Ireland’s largest university UCD, in Dublin 4, also hosts a large-scale Confucius Institute on its Belfield campus.
Sunak said he will, as PM, also curtail Chinese influence by ordering British universities to reveal any foreign funding partnerships worth more than Stg £50,000.
He will also review all UK-Chinese research partnerships that might “unwittingly assist” the country’s attempt to dominate technologies of the future, or that could have a military purpose.
A NATO-style alliance would also be set up, Sunak pledged, along with moves to influence international standards on cybersecurity and help British businesses and universities counter Chinese industrial espionage with the help of MI5, the Daily Telegraph reported this morning.
The first head-to-head TV debate between the two PM candidates will take place tonight at 9 pm on BBC.
However, former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith suggested Sunak’s announcement was tantamount to hypocrisy, given that, in the two years that Sunak was chancellor, the Treasury “pushed hard for an economic deal with China”.
Duncan Smith has been on China’s sanctions list since 26 March last year when China imposed retaliatory sanctions on a handful of UK politicians, researchers, think-tanks, advocacy groups, and a law firm, following sanctions imposed against Chinese officials by the EU, UK, US, and Canada for their role in alleged human-rights abuses committed against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The individuals and their immediate relatives are banned from entering China or doing business with Chinese citizens and institutions.
Any assets they own in China have been frozen.