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Britain will be ‘unapologetic’ in defending its interests in the face of China’s policy of “transnational repression”, the chairwoman of Parliament’s powerful Foreign Affairs committee has said. Alicia Kearns was speaking in the wake of remarks by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who set out the Government’s position in a keynote speech at Mansion House on Tuesday, during which he said it would be “unwise” to describe China as either a “threat” or an adversary.
Nevertheless, the MP for Rutland and Melton made it clear she favoured adopting a robust approach when it came to relations with Beijing.
She told Express.co.uk: “We need to look at how China operates and then we need to stand strong.
“Essentially, the Chinese government wants us to be apologetic for defending ourselves.
“The Chinese government wants us to believe that defence is an escalation. That is not the case.
“And we have to be unapologetic about defending ourselves.”
“China is unapologetic about defending itself. So therefore they cannot, it is hypocritical for them to call us out on it. We have to be strong, firm and defensive at home. That is our foremost priority.”
Britain was in no way seeking to attack or fall out with China, Ms Kearns stressed.
She added: “Our interests lie in defending our people and keeping our country safe and that includes our values and the way we live our lives.
“However, China is pursuing a policy of transnational repression and techno authoritarianism, where they are trying to insert technologies into our lives and silence foreign policymakers, MPs, dissidents, those who’ve broken away from their countries, refugees.
“We can’t allow the long arm of the Chinese state to silence us here in the UK.
“It all goes back to defence – all I’m asking for is that we defend ourselves.
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“I’m not a hawk on China, because hawks are trained to kill.
“I’m here to defend our country. If we operate from that basis, that everything we are doing is defence of our interests, in defence of our people, then China cannot see that as a threat.”
Regardless, Ms Kearns said it was important to recognise that some things China was doing represented a threat to the UK.
She added: “We shouldn’t be aggravating China – but we should be defending ourselves.”
Speaking earlier this week, Mr Cleverly focused on Britain’s policy towards the superpower.
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He told economists at the City of London venue: “I’m often asked to express that policy in a single phrase, or sum up China itself in one word, whether ‘threat’, or ‘partner’ or ‘adversary’.
“And I want to start by explaining why that is impossible, impractical and – most importantly – unwise.”
Emphasising the country’s rich and complex history, he added: “Our task is the shape the course of future events, not succumb to fatalism.
“And we must face the inescapable reality that no significant global problem – from climate change to pandemic prevention, from economic instability to nuclear proliferation – can be solved without China.”
He added: “To give up on dialogue with China would be to give up on addressing humanity’s greatest problems.
“Even worse, we would be ignoring salient facts vital to our safety and our prosperity.”
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