Rishi Sunak has left open the possibility that he could meet China’s Xi Jinping at the G20 in Indonesia.
Mr Sunak, who took a hard line on China during the summer Tory leadership contest, is in Bali for the G20 summit of world leaders.
While there, he is expected to meet US President Joe Biden and other allies in his first major foray into global diplomacy.
Speaking to broadcasters after landing in Bali, Mr Sunak said he would use the occasion to build “strong relationships” with world leaders including Mr Biden but also appeared to suggest that he could speak to President Xi.
Mr Sunak said: “In the wake of Covid and Russia’s war, many countries around the world are facing similar economic challenges to us at home.
“So it’ll be good to discuss with other leaders how we can fix the global economy.
“Of course, I’m also going to take this opportunity to condemn Russia’s illegal hostile activity in Ukraine. And lastly, I’m looking forward to sitting down and building some strong relationships with other leaders like President Biden from America and the prime ministers of Japan, Australia and India.”
Pressed on whether that list could include China, he said: “President Xi is here and like all the other leaders, hopefully I will have a chance to talk to him too.”
Mr Biden and Mr Xi met earlier after arriving at the summit, as the pair seek to calm tensions between the two major powers.
The UK-China relationship has also worsened in recent years, something that was reflected in last summer’s Tory leadership contest as candidates dialled up the rhetoric on China.
Then Mr Sunak declared China “the biggest-long term threat to Britain”, while also promising to close all 30 of Beijing’s Confucius Institutes in the UK.
The new Prime Minister appeared on Monday to acknowledge the divisions within the G20, with both China and India still retaining ties to Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Sunak told broadcasters: “The G20 is a very different forum to the G7 for example. The G7 is a group of like-minded liberal democracies with similar values. The G20, we have to acknowledge, is a different grouping. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be engaged in it.”