Liz Truss took a series of veiled digs at China as the Prime Minister addressed the UN General Assembly in New York in the early hours of this morning.
At her first major international gathering since joining Downing Street, Ms Truss spoke of a “real struggle” between the world’s democracies and autocracies.
She urged Western nations to focus on delivering economic growth at the risk of falling behind authoritarian states.
The Prime Minister, who hopes to boost Britain’s economy tomorrow with a tax-cutting mini-budget, also called on the G7 and other like-minded countries to “act as economic NATO”.
This included her renewed support for a $600 billion alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, launched by G7 leaders at their Cornwall summit last year.
Before Ms Truss became prime minister this month, she had taken an increasingly hawkish stance on Beijing as foreign secretary.
She has been urged to officially declare China a “threat” to national security in a bid to reconsider Britain’s foreign policy now that she is ranked 10th.
Liz Truss spoke of a “real battle” between the world’s democracies and autocracies as she addressed the UN General Assembly in New York
The prime minister urged Western nations to focus on delivering economic growth at the risk of falling behind authoritarian states
Before Ms Truss became prime minister this month, she had taken an increasingly hawkish stance on Beijing as foreign secretary
Although Ms. Truss did not specifically mention China in her UN speech, she issued a lengthy defense of the world’s democracies versus more autocratic states.
“Democracy gives people the right to choose their own path. And it’s evolving to reflect citizens’ aspirations,” she said.
“It unleashes businesses, ideas and opportunities. And it protects the freedoms that are at the core of our humanity.
“In contrast, autocracies sow the seeds of their own downfall by oppressing their citizens.
“They are fundamentally rigid and unadaptable. Any short-term gains will be wiped out in the long-term because these companies stifle the ambition and creativity essential to long-term growth.’
Ms Truss called a country where “artificial intelligence acts as a judge and jury, where there are no human rights and no fundamental freedoms” as “not the kind of place you really want to live in”.
She warned world leaders that they “cannot just assume there will be a democratic future”.
“There is a real struggle going on between different forms of society – between democracies and autocracies,” added the prime minister.
“If democratic societies don’t provide the economies and security that our citizens expect, we will fall behind.
“We must continue to improve and innovate what we do for the new era, to show that democracy is delivering.”
As Foreign Secretary, Ms Truss sought to overhaul the UK’s foreign aid spending to give poorer countries an alternative to accepting money from states like China.
Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative has been branded by critics as “debt trap diplomacy,” with China accused of funding major infrastructure projects in developing countries with unsustainable loans.
China is then alleged to be using this debt to influence the governments of those countries.
Prior to her address to the UN General Assembly, Ms. Truss held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden in New York
Speaking to the United Nations, Ms Truss praised the UK’s “leadership on free and fair trade”.
“Instead of exerting influence through debt, aggression and control over critical infrastructure and minerals, we are building strategic relationships based on mutual benefit and trust,” she said.
The prime minister urged world leaders to build on the “strength of collective purpose” they had shown in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Now we need to use these tools more systematically to roll back economic aggression by authoritarian regimes,” she said.
“The G7 and our like-minded partners should act as an economic NATO and together defend our prosperity.
“When a partner’s economy is under attack by an aggressive regime, we should act to support it. All for one and one for all.’
She hailed the G7’s $600 billion Global Infrastructure and Investment Partnership – set up as an alternative to China’s “Belt and Road” initiative – for providing “an honest, reliable alternative for infrastructure investment around the world, free.” of debt and subject to conditions”.
Prior to her address to the UN General Assembly, Ms. Truss held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden in New York.
Downing Street said Ms Truss had briefed Mr Biden on her plans to update Britain’s ‘Integrated Review’ of foreign and security policy, published last year, to ‘ensure Britain is fully equipped to meet the evolving challenge of countries such as to cope with China and Russia”.
“Leaders stressed the need to end over-reliance on authoritarian states for our energy, technology and manufacturing supply chains,” added a spokesman for No10.
Ms Truss is expected to update the integrated review to declare China a “threat” to national security – giving it status similar to that of Russia.