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Defence Secretary: Our eyes are wide open to Chinese threat

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The Defence Secretary has said the Government’s “eyes are wide open about China” but said it would be “fantasy” to ignore the Asian powerhouse’s prominence on the world stage.

The Prime Minister’s Integrated Review of security, defence, development and post-Brexit foreign policy published this week called for a “positive trade and investment relationship” with Beijing in the run-up to 2030 despite senior Tories calling for relations to be cooled.

But Ben Wallace said the UK could not “pretend China doesn’t exist” as he defended the policy position.

The idea that we can pretend China doesn’t exist is just fantasy

“As a defence sec, I recognise that threats come from all over the world,” he said on Friday.

“But China exists, China is a global power whether we like it or not and therefore what we’ve said in the review is: our eyes are wide open about China.

“We know they are a huge trading country, we trade with China, we trade with all sorts of countries around the world who don’t have democracies or don’t share the same values as us.

“But we also know that where China does things that we don’t agree with, we call them out – we’ve called them out on Hong Kong and on the treatment of the Uighur and we will continue to call them out on that and work with our friends and allies.

“But the idea that we can pretend China doesn’t exist is just fantasy.”

Royal Marine Commandos storm a compound during a live exercise demonstration at Bovington Camp in Dorset to showcases core equipment capabilities highlighted in Monday’s defence command paper / PA Wire

Mr Wallace, speaking to the PA news agency at Bovington Camp in Dorset, was backed up in his assessment by Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter.

Sir Nick said that while he saw China as a “chronic challenge”, he thought there was scope to work together on international issues.

“The answer is that China doesn’t have to be an enemy, it doesn’t have to be a threat,” he said.

“Quite clearly its ideology is different to ours and there will be areas where our government will want to call out their ideology, particularly on human rights.

“But there are also going to be areas where we are going to co-operate.

“We’re going to co-operate when it comes to climate change, for example. We are going to co-operate, I suspect, on the rules-based order that is necessary to secure and assure global trade.”

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