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'Another Cold War': Former UK PM warns of China threat

Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss delivers a speech on the second day of her five-day visit in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss delivers a speech on the second day of her five-day visit in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Copyright Chiang Ying-ying/ AP.
Copyright Chiang Ying-ying/ AP.
By Euronews with AP
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Liz Truss praised her successor Rishi Sunak for describing China as “the biggest long-term threat to Britain”.

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Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss warned of the economic and political threats to the West posed by China during a visit on Wednesday to Taiwan.

Truss is the first former British prime minister since Margaret Thatcher in the 1990s to visit the self-governing island republic, which China claims as its own territory. 

“There are those who say they don’t want another Cold War," Truss said in an address to the Prospect Foundation in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. "But this is not a choice we are in a position to make because China has already embarked on a self-reliance drive, whether we want to decouple from their economy or not." 

Tensions between China and the self-governing island have spiked in recent months, with the Chinese navy and airforce conducting exercises off its coast. The US has waded in, pledging to defend Taiwan in the event of any attack. 

“China is growing its navy at an alarming rate and is undertaking the biggest military build-up in peacetime history,” Truss said.

"They have already formed alliances with other nations that want to see the free world in decline. They have already made a choice about their strategy. The only choice we have is whether we appease and accommodate — or we take action to prevent conflict,” she added. 

Truss, who served an ill-fated seven weeks as prime minister last year, also said China could not be trusted to follow through on its commitments in areas from trade to the protection of the environment.

She praised Taiwan as “an enduring rebuke to totalitarianism” whose fate was a "core interest" to Europe.

“A blockade or invasion of Taiwan would undermine freedom and democracy in Europe. Just as a Russian victory in Ukraine would undermine freedom and democracy in the Pacific." 

"We in the United Kingdom and the free world must do all we can to back you,” she added.

Still a sitting member of the House of Commons, Truss follows a growing list of elected representatives and former officials from the US, EU nations and elsewhere who have visited Taiwan recently. 

They have attempted to show their defiance of China’s threats and attempts to cut off the island - and its high-tech economy - from the international community.

Truss praises Sunak China stance

Truss also praised her successor, Rishi Sunak, for describing China as “the biggest long-term threat to Britain” in comments last summer. 

She also echoed his calls for the closure of Chinese government-run cultural centres known as Confucius Institutes, which have been criticised as outlets for Communist Party propaganda.

Such services could instead be provided by people from Taiwan and Hong Kong who come to the United Kingdom without government backing, she added. 

China's relations with Britain and most other Western democracies have been in steep decline in recent years, largely as a result of disputes over human rights, trade technology and China's aggressive moves towards Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Beijing's relations with London have been especially bitter over China's sweeping crackdown on free speech, democracy and other civil liberties in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was promised it would retain its freedoms after the handover to Chinese rule in 1997.

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