Liz Truss, who continues to hold the title of shortest-serving prime minister in UK political history following her resignation last year, nonetheless still wants to be in the papers, as she has now made “dangerous” remarks on a matter of foreign policy.
While her successor as PM and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak was getting ready to visit Japan for the G7 summit, the ex-foreign secretary was giving a speech to The Prospect Foundation in Taiwan in which she warned of the increasing threat of “authoritarian regimes around the world”.
She told attendees: “You here in Taiwan know what the threat is, and you know what the alternative is. It’s tyranny, instead of freedom; it’s control, not choice; it’s arbitrary decisions made, rather than proper justice.
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“The reason you know what that threat is, is only 80 miles away, there is a totalitarian regime where that is a reality.”
That would be China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory.
Their spokesperson at the Chinese Embassy in London has since branded Ms Truss’s visit to Taiwan as a “provocative move” and “dangerous political show which will do nothing but harm to the UK”.
So what else did she say?
1. “Fatalism” is the biggest danger to Taiwan’s future
She said: “I believe that the biggest danger to the future of Taiwan is fatalism – not on your part, but a fatalism in the free world that somehow a Chinese takeover of Taiwan is inevitable.”
Her speech also took aim at unnamed “European nationals” and said it was “completely irresponsible” for them to “wash their hands of Taiwan because it’s a long way away or not a core part of our concerns”.
2. China’s Communist Party is “engaging in [an] ideological struggle” with “the free world”
Noting that China is the world’s largest economy, the South West Norfolk MP said the country wants to “use this position to gain prominence”.
But it’s likely for this reason – amongst others – that Ms Truss called on the West to “take action now” to “ensure we’re prepared” if they have to cut ties with China like they’ve done with Russia following its illegal invasion of Ukraine last year.
3. A suggestion the West should learn from the sanctions it placed on Russia
After Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the UK government announced sanctions against the country and its oligarchs, and former business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng – the chancellor under Ms Truss’s government, by the way – claimed Britons are willing to suffer “hardship” as a result of the UK economy being hit by the war in Ukraine.
A month after the conflict began, industry leaders warned consumers face months of food price hikes due to supply issues.
While ministers suggested the war in Ukraine may have played a part in the ongoing cost of living crisis, money saving expert Martin Lewis warned of “potentially a deliberate narrative shift” in blaming the invasion for the UK’s economic challenges and that it is “a worsening of the situation” rather than the “cause”.
Referencing the West’s response to Russia and President Putin, Ms Truss told The Prospect Foundation: “If Beijing keeps its word, and escalates aggression towards Taiwan, substantial decoupling will be unavoidable. If we fail to prepare for this, the consequent economic pain will be felt by all of our people across the free world.”
4. A review of international organisations and partnerships
Ms Truss also used her speech to take aim at existing collaborations and partnerships with western countries amid the rising threat from China.
“Let’s be honest, we can’t rely now on the UN Security Council, which was recently chaired by Putin’s Russia. And we can’t rely on the World Trade Organisation to make sure fair trade rules are in place. That is why we need to find other alternatives to get things done.
“It is also vital that China is blocked from being a member of the CPTPP and I encourage the United Kingdom government to say this publicly, as well as governments of Japan, Canada and our other allies.”
The CPTPP, by the way, is the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, whose members include Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand – a partnership which China has applied to join.
She also said the UK’s integrated review – which sees the government examine its “security, defence, development and foreign policy priorities” – needs to be “amended to make it clear China is a threat”.
So if these partnerships and alliances are no good and we need a “more coordinated approach” on defence, what does Ms Truss propose instead?
5. An “economic Nato”
Ms Truss expressed her desire to see the formation of a financial version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), the military alliance made up of European and North American countries, to establish “coordination between countries which support freedom and proper free enterprise”.
She explained: “This group includes the G7 and it includes the EU but it could also include South Korea, Australia and other willing parties.
“This would be an organisation that had proper ministerial representation, and the right policies in place to agree the best approach towards China – the best approach to take on technology exports, the best approach on economic coercion, the best approach on trade and investment.
“Now there’s a very obvious group of countries that could get together to do that, and that’s a group of countries that have already put sanctions on Russia that I was proud to take a lead on as foreign secretary and as prime minister.”
6. Risk of another Cold War
Ms Truss warned: “There are many in the West who say we don’t want another Cold War, but we have to be clear that this is not a choice that we are in a position to make.”
7. “Chinese global dominance” is a bigger issue than climate change
In one of the more eyebrow-raising remarks from Ms Truss, the Conservative politician argued: “There is still too many in the West who are trying to cling on to the idea that we can somehow cooperate with China on issues like climate change as if there’s nothing wrong as if there are bigger issues than Chinese global dominance on the future of freedom and democracy.
“But without freedom and democracy, there is nothing else. We know what happens to the environment or to world health under totalitarian regimes that don’t tell the truth: we can’t believe a word they say.”
And at the same time, Ms Truss added: “We’re not going to beat China economically by becoming more like China. We need to make sure free democracies have small governance, lower taxes and less bureaucracy, so people want to invest in our countries.”
Lower taxes, of course, being a policy agenda she pursued with her disastrous ‘mini-budget’ which terminated her premiership…
And this intervention from Ms Truss has since been called out by many people online:
\u201cLiz Truss in Taiwan calls for \u2018economic Nato\u2019 to challenge China\n\nWHAT is she doing?\n\u2066@RishiSunak\u2069 hasn\u2019t sent her there!\nShe needs to lose the whip surely? \n( Along with Breverman - for different reasons) https://t.co/9SgPMI5nZ9\u201d— Claire \u2618\ufe0f\ud83c\uddea\ud83c\uddfa \ud83d\udc1f #RejoinEU #UBI (@Claire \u2618\ufe0f\ud83c\uddea\ud83c\uddfa \ud83d\udc1f #RejoinEU #UBI) 1684304255
\u201cLiz Truss speech in Taiwan is even more unhinged than I feared.\n\nShe calls to stop *any* cooperation with China, including on climate change, because that'd destroy "freedom and democracy" which is more important than the survival of the human race \ud83e\udd21\nhttps://t.co/MBOMfvqiho\u201d— Arnaud Bertrand (@Arnaud Bertrand) 1684282412
\u201cImagine having a record like Liz Truss and deciding that what the potentially massively volatile conflict between China and Taiwan really needs right now is an intervention from you. https://t.co/GVnNFZ4Pfh\u201d— Adam Bienkov (@Adam Bienkov) 1683635359
\u201c2014: Liz Truss will be visiting China\u2019s capital Beijing to open up new pork markets\n\n2023: Liz Truss urges Sunak to class China as 'threat' to UK security\u201d— Barry Halverson (@Barry Halverson) 1684306396
\u201cPeople are being very harsh about Liz Truss today. But absolutely banjaxing a country is very moreish. It\u2019s hard to just go cold turkey.\u201d— Tom Sutcliffe (@Tom Sutcliffe) 1684325444
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