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Golden era of UK-China ties over: Sunak

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London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the so-called “golden era” of relations with China is over as he vowed to “evolve” the UK’s stance towards the country.

In his first foreign policy speech, he said the closer economic ties of the previous decade had been “naïve”, BBC reported.

He said the UK now needed to replace wishful thinking with “robust pragmatism” towards competitors.

But he warned against “Cold War rhetoric”, adding that China’s global significance could not be ignored, the BBC said.

Sunak has faced pressure from Tory backbenchers to toughen the UK’s stance on China since he took over as Tory leader and UK Prime Mminister last month.

The speech, to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London, comes after protests in China over the weekend against the country’s strict Covid lockdown laws.

Police have made several arrests, and a BBC journalist was detained while covering a protest in Shanghai on Sunday. He was beaten and kicked by the police during his arrest, and held for several hours before being released, the report said.

Sunak told the audience of business leaders and foreign policy experts that, in the face of the protests, China had “chosen to crack down further, including by assaulting a BBC journalist”.

“We recognise China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests, a challenge that grows more acute as it moves towards even greater authoritarianism,” he said.

He added that the “golden era” of UK-China relations was “over”, along with the “naïve idea” that more trade with the West would lead to Chinese political reform.

However, Sunak stressed that “we cannot simply ignore China’s significance in world affairs – to global economic stability or issues like climate change”, BBC reported.

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