Liz Truss to visit Taiwan to show ‘solidarity’ in face of China threats
Former prime minister Liz Truss will visit Taiwan next week to give a speech to show “solidarity” with the self-governed island in the face of “increasingly aggressive behaviour” from China.
Ms Truss is also expected to meet Taiwanese government officials during the trip.
During her time as prime minister Ms Truss was widely expected to move the UK Government on to a more hawkish footing when it came to dealings with Beijing, wanting to declare China under Communist Party rule a “threat” to national security.
However, her brief time in Downing Street — cut short to only 44 days after her mini-Budget impact on the markets last year saw confidence in her premiership collapse — meant her update to the UK’s foreign policy position did not have time to materialise.
Instead, her successor Rishi Sunak chose not to go as far, updating the UK’s integrated review on foreign and defence policy in March to describe China as representing an “epoch-defining and systemic challenge”.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who is visiting the US this week, has previously said that isolating China would be a “sign of weakness”.
On Friday, he said that he raised the issue of Taiwan, and broached what is happening in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, during pre-coronation talks with Chinese vice-president Han Zheng.
It came before it was announced that the first UK ministerial visit to Hong Kong since Beijing’s crackdown on civil rights began in the former British colony is to take place, with investment minister Lord Johnson due to travel there.
In her speech next week, Ms Truss is expected to issue a rallying cry in the face of Chinese and Taiwanese tension.
Engagement with China means discussing areas of deep disagreement & vital co-operation.
Today with VP Han Zheng, I made plain the UK’s views on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan.
We also discussed working together on climate change, economic ties and people-to-people links. pic.twitter.com/AVRAEweeju
— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) May 5, 2023
Taiwan and China split in 1949 following a civil war that ended with the Communist Party in control of the mainland.
The island has never been part of the People’s Republic of China, but Beijing says it must unite with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Ms Truss said: “Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and democracy.
“I’m looking forward to showing solidarity with the Taiwanese people in person in the face of increasingly aggressive behaviour and rhetoric from the regime in Beijing.”
She used a speech in the US last month to accuse western leaders meeting Chinese president Xi Jinping of displaying “weakness”.
It came after French president Emmanuel Macron and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen met the Chinese leader in a show of European unity in dealings with Beijing.
Downing Street, asked what Mr Sunak made of his predecessor’s decision to visit Taiwan, said it was up to individual MPs where they choose to travel.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our long-standing position on Taiwan has not changed.
“We have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but a strong unofficial relationship based on deep and growing ties in a wide range of areas. And that’s underpinned by our shared democratic values.
“For our part, the UK Government will continue to engage with China on the issue of Taiwan. The Foreign Secretary raised the importance of a peaceful resolution in his meeting with the Chinese vice-president on Friday.”
The spokesman also said it was “completely appropriate” for the Government to send a minister to Hong Kong given it was “home to hundreds of businesses who help sustain a thriving £120 billion a year trade and investment relationship with the UK”.
He added: “It will again be an opportunity to raise our concerns about China’s clampdown on freedoms and breaches of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which are directly hurting Hong Kong’s people and the economy.”