Rishi Sunak to meet Xi Jinping as he adopts conciliatory tone on China – POLITICO


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BALI, Indonesia — Rishi Sunak will invite Xi Jinping to collaborate more closely on global challenges in the first meeting between a British prime minister and a Chinese president in nearly five years.

Sunak and Xi will hold a bilateral meeting on Wednesday on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali.

Ahead of the meeting – confirmed just 24 hours before it was due to take place – Downing Street insisted it was « clear on how we approach our relationship with China ».

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said it was necessary « for China and the UK to establish a frank and constructive relationship », but stressed that « the challenges posed by China are systemic » and « long-term « .

The two leaders are likely to discuss the war in Ukraine, energy security and climate change, among other topics, Number 10 said.

Theresa May was the last prime minister to meet Xi, during a visit to Beijing in January 2018, at a time when Downing Street was still referring to the « golden age » of relations supposedly ushered in by David Cameron and George Osborne.

Relations between the UK and China have deteriorated following China’s crackdown on democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, the oppression of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province and concerns about the implications for the security of allowing Chinese companies to build critical national infrastructure in the UK.

News of the meeting comes after Sunak softened his language on China and suggested he was dropping plans to declare the country a « threat » as part of a major review of British foreign policy.

Responding to questions from POLITICO during the trip, Sunak described China as « a systemic challenge », but stressed that dialogue with Beijing was essential to address global challenges such as climate change.

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said: « I think our approach to China is very similar to that of our allies, be it America, Australia and Canada – all countries with which I’m talking about exactly this problem while we’re here at the G20 summit.

Sunak’s spokesman said on Tuesday that the prime minister would « obviously raise the human rights issue with President Xi » at the meeting.

But he added: « Similarly, none of the issues we discuss at the G20 – be it the global economy, Ukraine, climate change, global health – none of them can be resolved without action. coordination of the main economies of the world, and of course that includes China.

Xi has already held bilateral talks with various leaders at the summit | Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Xi has already held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, among other leaders, at the summit.

In addition to talks with Xi, Sunak will also hold talks with Biden, Albanian, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, warned the UK was « heading for appeasement » with Xi.

“I fear that the current prime minister, when he meets Xi Jinping, will be perceived as weak because now it seems that we are drifting towards appeasement with China, which is a disaster like in the 1930s and he so it will be. » now,” he said. « They are a threat to our values, they are a threat to economic stability. »

Bob Seely, another Conservative MP and member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, added: « We need to talk to nations, especially those who may question our values ​​and our stability, but it is dangerous to normalize relationships when they are not normal. ”

But Alicia Kearns, chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee and a member of the China Research Group, welcomed Sunak’s meeting with Xi. « It’s important that they meet to avoid miscalculations, » she said. « We cannot just cut off China, we must work to create space for dialogue, challenge and cooperation. »


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