Chinese state media hit out at newly elected Conservative Party leader Liz Truss over her statement that China represents a major threat to national security, as polling showed Truss will soon take over from outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Truss was announced as the party’s new leader amid a cost-of-living crisis after she beat former chancellor Rishi Sunak in a weeks-long internal contest for the ruling party’s top job, and the post of prime minister that comes with it.
“Another statement of Truss during the campaign [was that] she might declare China a ‘national security threat’ to the UK,” the English-language China Daily said in an editorial on Monday.
“Trying to divert domestic attention by exaggerating the ‘China threat’ and slamming other countries is like an old meme played by lame political talk show actors, which serves no purpose other than to expose the incapacity of such politicians in terms of their governance,” the paper said.
“The easiest way is to pander to populism, but this will only bring about a more difficult fate for their countries,” the paper said.
The two-month leadership contest left a power vacuum at the heart of the British government as incumbent Boris Johnson jetted off on at least two overseas vacations, having resigned in the wake of a cascade of ministerial resignations calling on him to go.
Inflation is above 10 percent, with tens of thousands of workers currently striking for pay and conditions to keep up.
Foreign secretary Truss, who has spoken of her admiration for late former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, summoned China’s ambassador to the U.K. for crisis talks over Beijing’s military aggression targeting Taiwan during the Aug. 2-3 visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We have seen increasingly aggressive behavior and rhetoric from Beijing in recent months, which threaten peace and stability in the region,” Truss said in a statement at the time.
She reportedly vowed to declare China “a threat to national security” if she won the leadership race.
Improved ties unlikely
The nationalistic Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to CCP mouthpiece the People’s Daily, said there was little reason to believe relations between London and Beijing would improve under Truss’ premiership.
“With the country effectively drifting aimlessly without a government since former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to resign after caroming from one scandal after another and subsequently going AWOL, the country needs pragmatism and practical policies, not outdated ideology,” the paper said.
“Having designated China as a threat to the U.K.’s national security … holding to that stance when in office will not be in the U.K.’s best interests,” the editorial warned.
It said plenty has changed since the Conservative government heralded a “golden age” in Sino-British relations in 2015.
“In the hope of securing a trade deal with the U.S. to help extricate the U.K. from the jaws of the monstrous Brexit mess the country brought upon itself, being tough on China was seen as a way to curry favor with Washington,” the article said.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.