China would be committing a “catastrophic error” if it attacked Taiwan, Liz Truss warned at the Nato summit, adding that the UK and other nations should examine commercial connections with countries who used economic power in “coercive” methods.
In an indication of how dramatically UK government attitudes toward China have altered since David Cameron’s self-proclaimed “golden decade,” the British foreign secretary said commerce should be focused at countries that could be trusted.
Truss said during the Madrid conference that, with China growing its strategic goals, Nato’s new strategic framework should expressly mention China. The alliance’s fundamental mission was last updated in 2010 and is due for revision.
Truss’ remarks come a day after she advocated for faster action to provide Taiwan with defensive weaponry in the event that China attacked, citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a major lesson.
“I do believe that with China extending its influence through economic coercion and building a capable military, there is a real risk that they will draw the wrong conclusion, resulting in a catastrophic miscalculation such as invading Taiwan,” Truss said alongside Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
One of the topics discussed at the G7 conference in southern Germany earlier this week was efforts to increase western infrastructure funding for poor countries as a reaction to China’s “belt and road” initiative, which wants to gain influence through comparable spending.
Given the danger from both China and Russia, Truss stated that there was a “need to extend abroad and develop that network of liberty of other like-minded countries.”
She believes that the G7 and nations such as Australia should use their “economic weight” to push China, and that countries such as the United Kingdom should reconsider their attitude to trade with Beijing.
“I think traditionally we haven’t exploited that economic power,” she remarked.
“We’ve been equidistant, if you will, about who we trade with and who we work with. And I believe that nations are becoming much more concerned with whether or not this commerce is based on trust, and whether or not we trust this partner. Will they use it to weaken us, or will they use it to help both of our economies? As a result, commerce has become far more geopolitical.”
Speaking before the Commons foreign affairs committee on Tuesday, Truss went much beyond usual official rhetoric on Taiwan by stating that the island needed defensive weaponry.
“We should have done things sooner.” “We should have sent defensive weaponry to Ukraine earlier,” she stated. “We need to learn that lesson for Taiwan.” Every piece of equipment we’ve supplied requires months of training, so the sooner we do it, the better.”
Boris Johnson is still in power, despite a revolt among his own MPs over the Partygate scandal.
The entire situation exemplifies why we want robust, independent journalism. We would not have known that Johnson had breached the law while in government if it hadn’t been for media scrutiny from the Guardian and our peers. There would have been no police penalties and no independent inquiry. We’d be no wiser.