'Stop slandering China' says embassy as Sunak signals end of China-UK 'golden era'
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used his first major foreign policy speech to say the 'golden era' of UK-China relations was
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used his first major foreign policy speech to say the 'golden era' of UK-China relations was "over." /Toby Melville/Reuters

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used his first major foreign policy speech to say the 'golden era' of UK-China relations was "over." /Toby Melville/Reuters

China's embassy in London has given a firm response to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's first major foreign policy speech, after the UK leader said the "golden era" of relations with China was "over," accusing Beijing of being a "systemic challenge" to Britain's values and interests.

Sunak stressed the UK could not ignore China's significance in world affairs such as "global economic stability or issues like climate change." But he said "the naive idea" that the UK could try to use trade to push China towards "social and political reform" was also finished.

The UK Prime Minister revealed that he is taking a long-term view on relations with Beijing who he believes is "conspicuously competing for global influence." His focus will be on strengthening resilience to policies that are not aligned with Westminster's and protecting economic security.

Responding to Sunak's remarks, China's embassy in London slammed the prime minister's speech, saying it was "full of ideological prejudice," and constituted "a malicious distortion and slander against China's policies."

A spokesperson for the embassy reinforced the message that "China is committed to the path of peaceful development and dedicates itself to developing friendly and cooperative relations with other countries based on the principles of mutual respect, equality, and non-interference," it said.

Pointing out that China contributed more than 38 percent on average to world economic growth - exceeding that of the G7 countries combined - the embassy asked in what way China challenged the UK's values and interests?

"The root cause of Britain's difficulties today lies in itself. We do not accept groundless accusations against China," it added. "As for issues related to Xinjiang and Hong Kong, these are China's internal affairs, and the UK side is in no position or has any right to pass judgment," it said.

"It is time for the UK side to seek treatment for its own colonial mindset," it added.


UK plans for Indo-Pacific expansion

Sunak had also used the speech to announce plans for Britain to expand its influence in Indo-Pacific region by "seizing the huge opportunities on offer" there, as well as developing it's defense presence.  

"In the Indo-Pacific economics and security are indivisible," Sunak said. "It's why we're evolving new long-term defense, industrial and technological partnerships like AUKUS," referencing the trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK, and the U.S.

"By deepening these ties we'll help protect the arteries and ventricles of the global economy, supporting security and prosperity – both at home in our European neighbourhood and in the Indo-Pacific."

The Chinese embassy in turn urged the UK to "abandon its prejudice, respect facts, and stop slandering China." 

"It is unwise to blindly follow the direction of the United States and intentionally erect barriers to the development of China-UK relations," it said. 

Instead, it said the UK should work with China to expand cooperation and manage differences "on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit. This is the right choice that serves the interests of the people of both countries.

Sunak's comments follow pressure from many in his ruling Conservative Party to take a tougher stance against Beijing, as its status as one of the world's largest economies continues to grow.

The reference to a 'golden era' of Sino-British ties was a throwback to former finance minister George Osborne's description of the two nations' relations in 2015.

Sunak has said he wants to be the first UK Prime Minister to meet with China's President Xi Jinping in over five years but a planned meeting fell through at this month's G20 summit in Bali after Sunak was called to attend an emergency meeting of NATO members when a missile landed in Poland.

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