LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The rivals to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson are locked in a battle to take the toughest line on China, firmly drawing a line under the vaunted golden era for Sino-British ties.
Ms Liz Truss, the front runner in the Conservative leadership race, has branded Chinese tech giants a security risk, called to arm Taiwan and, in private, labelled China's crackdown in Xinjiang a genocide, according to reports. Mr Rishi Sunak has named China the "biggest long-term threat to Britain".
"There's a perception China's actually more of a hostile-state relationship so you should re-consider all areas of engagement," said Ms Julia Pamilih, head of research at the China Research Group, set up by Conservative MPs to scrutinise Sino-UK ties.
If Ms Truss or Mr Sunak follow through with a hardline approach when one of them becomes prime minister on Sept 5, they'll be weakening ties with Britain's third-biggest trade partner - a major source of cheap imports - just at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is biting the hardest, with inflation soaring into double digits.
They'll be in line with the US, which is keen for allies to support it in more clearly taking on China over human rights issues.
But amid fears about the involvement of China-backed companies in critical British infrastructure, the new leader will also be closing the investment spigots that their fellow Tories David Cameron and George Osborne sought to open just seven years ago when they were prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer.
In 2015, the two men said Britain would be China's "best partner in the West," promising a "golden era" in relations. Now, both Ms Truss and Mr Sunak are apparently calculating that a degree of economic damage is an acceptable price to pay for defending western principles.
"There will be a cost in terms of diplo...