After receiving criticism over her intended trip to Taiwan, Liz Truss called China “the largest threat we face to the free world.”
As there were worries that the former prime minister’s scheduled trip may upset the delicate political balance in the region, she was criticized for “Instagram diplomacy” by her own Tory colleagues over the weekend.
The former prime minister, though, fired back on Monday, accusing the UK and other western nations of being “too dependent” on Beijing and lacking in toughness.
When she was prime minister, Ms. Truss was generally anticipated to take a more confrontational approach toward China. However, her term as prime minister was short-lived due to the economic chaos her policies had caused.
However, her successor, Mr. Sunak, used more moderate rhetoric, referring to China as a “epoch-defining and systemic challenge” in a review of foreign and defense policy published in March.
Speaking at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit Ms Truss said the West should not capitulate to “rhetorical bullying from authoritarian regimes”.
“There’s no doubt that the entire western world including the United States, including Europe, including the UK, has become too dependent on China, and that’s a problem because it’s given China leverage over us, and it’s also a problem economically,” she said.
“Yes, the UK needs to take more action but it’s not just the UK, it’s the continent of Europe, it’s the United States.”
In addition, Ms. Truss compared Chinese President Xi Jinping with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming that Chinese policy was “linked” to the conflict in Ukraine.
“I stand by my assertion that we should designate China as a threat. I think they’re a very clear threat. I think they’re the largest threat that we face to the free world,” she said.
The visit takes place at a delicate time for Western-Beijing ties as Beijing becomes more assertive.
China does not rule out using force to achieve “reunification” since it sees Taiwan as a separatist province that will inevitably come under its control.
Taiwan, however, considers itself independent from the People’s Republic of China and has its own government.
Following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in August of last year, relations shattered severely, and there are worries that Ms. Truss’s travel could worsen the situation.
Ms. Truss merely intended to travel to the nation to raise her profile, according to Alicia Kearns, the chair of the select committee on foreign affairs in the Tory-controlled parliament.
“The trip is performative, not substantive. It is the worst kind of example of Instagram diplomacy,” she said.
“It is deeply unhelpful because it escalates the normal situation in Taiwan.”
Apart from stating that it would not interfere with “independent travel decisions of a private citizen who is not a member of the government,” the government has not commented on the situation.