Tory leadership race: Sunak and Truss accused of ‘taking cheques’ from China

Dan Wooton slams the televised Tory leadership debates

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Both candidates vying to become the next Prime Minister were keen to imply they were going to take a tough stance on Beijing, a topic which proved to be one of many sources of a heated back-and-forth on Monday night. Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak was the first to take aim at his opposite number, accusing Ms Truss of “talking about having a golden era of relationships with China”.

He said: “There was a time when Liz was talking about having a golden era of relationships with China and the mission there was talking about having deeper collaboration with things like food security and technology.”

“But what we do need to do is acknowledge that China is a threat to our national security, it’s a threat to our economic security.”

Mr Sunak added that while he was Chancellor, the Government tabled its National Security Investment Bill to “protect ourselves against countries like China who are trying to infiltrate our companies and steal our technology”.

But the Foreign Secretary fired back.

Ms Truss said: “Rishi, I challenged you on the debate last week.

“As recently as a month ago you were pushing for closer trade relationships with China.”

She also accused Mr Sunak’s former department of trying to cement “closer economic relations” with China, but claimed that hers has taken “the toughest stance” in the country.

But according to Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy, neither candidate has much to brag about when it comes to their records on the Asian nation.

The Labour MP tweeted: “From 5G to nuclear power, the Conservatives have repeatedly demonstrated they have no clear strategy on China.

“The row between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss shows both have flip-flopped between talking tough on China and chasing cheques from Beijing.”

Mr Lammy continued: “Neither candidate will provide the strong and consistent leadership the UK needs.

“Labour would carry out a complete audit of UK-China relations.

“Standing firm on human rights, international law and national security, while cooperating where we can on climate and global health.”

But the Conservative Party has taken some steps to slash China’s influence in Britain, both in terms of 5G and nuclear power, Mr Lammy pointed out.

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Britain has now banned Chinese technology giant Huawei from involvement in the roll-out of Britain’s 5G network, although this came after intense pressure from Washington.

And under a 2015 nuclear cooperation deal between China and the UK, which was hailed as a new “golden era” between the two countries, Beijing’s state-owned China General Nuclear (CGN) is currently developing the Hinkley Point C in Somerset, Bradwell B, and Sizewell C in Suffolk.

But Mr Johnson had also been attempting to exclude China Beijing from its nuclear infrastructure.

He said in a November 2021 speech that the country will be barred from future involvement in the development of new nuclear power plants.

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