Liz Truss’s trip to Taiwan this week is a “dangerous political stunt”, the Chinese embassy in London has said, as the former prime minister prepares to call on Rishi Sunak to declare Beijing a “threat” to UK security.
She is expected to use a speech in Taipei City on Wednesday to challenge the prime minister to deliver on his rhetoric during last summer’s Conservative party leadership contest, when he declared China “the biggest-long term threat to Britain”. He also promised to close all 30 of the UK’s Confucius Institutes, which promote Chinese culture on campus in higher education and in some British schools.
In a pre-briefed extract of her speech to the Prospect Foundation, Truss is expected to say: “Last summer the now British prime minister described China as ‘the biggest long-term threat to Britain’, and said the Confucius Institutes should be closed. He was right and we need to see those policies enacted urgently.
“The UK’s integrated review needs to be amended to state clearly that China is a threat. Confucius Institutes should be closed down immediately. Instead, the service could be provided by organisations with the support of Hong Kong nationals and Taiwanese nationals who have come to the UK, on a free basis.”
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in London said Truss’s visit to Taiwan was a “dangerous political show which will do nothing but harm to the UK”. The statement on the embassy website added: “We urge the relevant British politician to correct her wrongdoing, stop making political shows with the Taiwan question and stop conniving at and supporting ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces.”
Truss is the most senior British politician to visit the country since Margaret Thatcher in the 1990s, and comes at a time when relations between Britain and China have been at their most fractious in decades.
The former Conservative leader is also expected to urge the west not to work with China, warning that totalitarian regimes “don’t tell the truth”.
“There are still too many in the west who are trying to cling on to the idea that we can cooperate with China on issues like climate change, as if there is nothing wrong; that there are bigger issues than Chinese global dominance or the future of freedom and democracy,” she is expected to say. “But without freedom and democracy there is nothing else.”
Taiwan and China split in 1949 following a civil war that ended with the Communist party in control of the mainland. The island has never been part of the People’s Republic of China but Beijing has insisted it must unite with the mainland, by force if necessary.
A UK government spokesperson said it was in Britain’s interests to “continue engagement” with China while recognising the challenges the country presents, adding: “We have always been clear that China remains the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security.
“That’s why our integrated review refresh sets out a new approach to dealing with the challenge which China presents for the UK and the wider world.”