Liz Truss issues veiled swipes at China in UN speech as PM warns of ‘real struggle’ with autocracies

Liz Truss issues series of veiled swipes at China in UN speech as PM warns of ‘real struggle’ between democracies and autocracies, while she warns West it could ‘fall behind’ without fresh focus on economic growth

  • Liz Truss takes a series of veiled swipes at China in speech to UN in New York
  • PM speaks of ‘real struggle’ between the world’s democracies and autocracies
  • She urges West to focus on economic growth at risk they could ‘fall behind’ 

Liz Truss took a series of veiled swipes at China as the Prime Minister addressed the UN General Assembly in New York in the early hours of this morning.

Attending her first major international gathering since entering 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 they could ‘fall behind’ authoritarian states.

The PM, who is hoping to kickstart the UK economy with a tax-cutting mini-Budget tomorrow, also called for the G7 and other like-minded countries to ‘act as an economic NATO‘.

This included her renewed backing for a $600billion alternative to China’s belt and road initiative, which was set up by G7 leaders at their Cornwall summit last year.

Prior to becoming PM this month, Ms Truss had taken an increasingly hawkish stance towards Beijing as Foreign Secretary.

She has been tipped to formally declare China as a ‘threat’ to national security in a rethink of Britain’s foreign policy now she’s in No10.

Liz Truss spoke of a 'real struggle' between the world's democracies and autocracies as she addressed the UN General Assembly in New York

Liz Truss spoke of a ‘real struggle’ between the world’s democracies and autocracies as she addressed the UN General Assembly in New York

The PM urged Western nations to focus on delivering economic growth at the risk they could 'fall behind' authoritarian states

The PM urged Western nations to focus on delivering economic growth at the risk they could ‘fall behind’ authoritarian states

Prior to becoming PM this month, Ms Truss had taken an increasingly hawkish stance towards Beijing as Foreign Secretary

Prior to becoming PM this month, Ms Truss had taken an increasingly hawkish stance towards Beijing as Foreign Secretary

Although Ms Truss did not specifically mention China in her UN speech, she issued a lengthy defence of the world’s democracies in comparison to more autocratic states.

‘Democracy gives people the right to choose their own path. And it evolves to reflect the aspirations of citizens,’ she said.

‘It unleashes enterprise, ideas, and opportunity. And it protects the freedoms that are at the very core of our humanity.

‘By contrast, autocracies sow the seeds of their own demise by suppressing their citizens.

‘They are fundamentally rigid and unable to adapt. Any short-term gains are eroded in the long term because these societies stifle the aspiration and creativity which are vital to long-term growth.’

Ms Truss outlined a country where ‘Artificial Intelligence acts as judge and jury, where there are no human rights and no fundamental freedoms’ as ‘not the kind of place anyone truly wants to live’.

She warned world leaders that they ‘cannot simply assume there will be a democratic future’.

‘There is a real struggle going on between different forms of society – between democracies and autocracies,’ the PM added.

‘Unless democratic societies deliver on the economy and security our citizens expect, we will fall behind.

‘We need to keep improving and renewing what we do for the new era, demonstrating that democracy delivers.’

As Foreign Secretary, Ms Truss attempted to overhaul the UK’s overseas aid spending in order to offer poorer countries an alternative to taking money from states such as China.

Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative has been branded ‘debt trap diplomacy’ by critics, with China accused of funding major infrastructure projects in developing nations with unsustainable loans.

China is then claimed to use that debt to gain leverage over those countries’ governments.

Prior to her speech at the UN General Assembly, Ms Truss held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden in New York

Prior to her speech at the UN General Assembly, Ms Truss held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden in New York

In her UN speech, Ms Truss hailed the UK’s ‘leadership on free and fair trade’.

‘Rather than exerting influence through debt, aggression, and taking control of critical infrastructure and minerals, we are building strategic ties based on mutual benefit and trust,’ she said.

The PM urged world leaders to build on the ‘strength of collective purpose’ they showed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Now we must use these instruments in a more systematic way to push back on the economic aggression of authoritarian regimes,’ she said.

‘The G7 and our like-minded partners should act as an economic NATO, collectively defending our prosperity.

‘If the economy of a partner is being targeted by an aggressive regime we should act to support them. All for one and one for all.’

She hailed the G7’s $600billion Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment – set up as an alternative to China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative – for providing ‘an honest, reliable alternative on infrastructure investment around the world, free from debt with strings attached’.

Prior to her speech at the UN General Assembly, Ms Truss held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden in New York.

Downing Street said Ms Truss informed Mr Biden of her plans to update Britain’s ‘Integrated Review’ of foreign and security policy – published last year – to ‘ensure the UK is fully equipped to tackle the evolving challenge from countries like China and Russia’.

‘The leaders stressed the need to end over-reliance on authoritarian states in terms of our energy, technology and manufacturing supply chains,’ a No10 spokesperson added.

Ms Truss is expected to update the Integrated Review to declare China as a ‘threat’ to national security – giving it similar status to Russia.

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