Sunak facing Tory fury ahead of China speech as Beijing fears grow

China defends claims that US ‘spy balloon’ was a ‘weather balloon’

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Rishi Sunak is facing fury from Tory MPs ahead of a major Government speech. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is preparing a new speech on China as part of an attempt to explain the UK’s relationship with the country. He is expected to suggest that Britain should continue to communicate and engage with China on areas which could benefit the UK.

While he is expected to lay out some “no-go areas” in which China is seen to be actively working against the UK’s interests, Mr Cleverly is expected to say we shouldn’t cut all ties with Beijing.

Mr Clevely was previously accused of “appeasement creep” after he claimed China is “potentially an important partner for good”.

In December 2022, he claimed the UK could “work together” with Beijing on issues on which the two countries are aligned.

Sir Iain told the Daily Express Mr Cleverly’s show the UK has “learned nothing” from appeasement ahead of World War 2.

Speaking about Mr Cleverly’s upcoming speech, a source told the Sun: “China isn’t just one big entity, it has many different elements to it.

They added: “Staying silent isn’t a signal of strength.”

During the leadership campaign over the summer, Mr Sunak took a hard line on China, pledging to crack down on the UK’s relationship with the country.

But he has since rowed back on this taking a seemingly softened stance on China after he advocated an approach of “robust pragmatism” towards China, which he described as a “systemic challenge” to the UK.

Mr Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss pledged to officially designate China as a “threat”.

Erkin Tuniyaz, head of the Xinjiang region in China, is expected to visit the UK this week.

This comes amid mounting fears over Beijing, after the US shot down a “spy balloon” thought to have originated from China over US airspace last week.

The visit has been met with fury, with MPs expressing concern that he could meet with foreign office officials.

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But the Foreign Office has said he will get a proper dressing down from officials if he does come to the UK, with officials telling the Sun that he “will not be welcomed with tea and crumpets”.

The PM’s spokesperson said yesterday: “China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests.

“That is a challenge that grows more acute as it moves to even greater authoritarianism.”

Senior Tories have also urged the Government to stop sending foreign aid to China ahead of the next election.

Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the payments need to stop “the day after tomorrow”, calling on Mr Sunak’s Government to “toughen up” on China.

He told the Telegraph: “They’re paying aid out to China, a bigger economy than ours – that’s madness.

“We’ve got a policy that says China isn’t a specific threat.

“Our policy of robust pragmatism is mad and, in the meantime, China looks at us and thinks we’re weak.

“It’s time to change our policy and time to toughen up.”

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