Former Chancellor Philip Hammond attacks rising ‘anti-Chinese sentiment in Tory party’ amid Huawei row
Former Chancellor Philip Hammond warned the UK should not be distancing itself from China (PA)
Former Chancellor Philip Hammond has hit out at an “outbreak of anti Chinese sentiment within the Conservative Party” amid a row over tech firm Huawei.
He called the rise “alarming” as he warned the UK should not be distancing itself from its third largest trading partner while "loosening ties" with Europe.
And the ex-Cabinet minister said the UK needs “to tread carefully” in managing its relationship with Beijing, after its ambassador warned the Government will “have to bear the consequences” of a hardline stance against the country.
It comes after ministers received a report into the Chinese firm Huawei which could see it outright banned from any involvement in the UK’s 5G network.
And last week Boris Johnson offered three million Hong Kong residents the chance to move to the UK after the imposition of draconian new national security legislation, a move that has angered the Chinese government.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Hammond said: “We've always been clear-eyed about our relationship with China, and very frank with the Chinese in private, that we have very strong differences of opinion with them on a number of issues.
“But China is the world's second largest economy. The UK is an open trading economy that depends on global trade and right now, the UK is in the process of of loosening its ties with its traditional trade partners in Europe, in the name of expanding its global reach.
“And it seems to me that this is not a time to be wanting to weaken our trade links with the world's second largest economy.
“So, we have to find a way and I think we've done it in the past, with many countries, of continuing to trade, continuing to invest and welcome investment from countries with which we have frank disagreements about political issues.”
But there has been growing anger from Tory MPs over the potential involvement of Huawei in creating high-speed internet infrastructure.
Some have accused the firm, which has been banned by the United States, of spying on behalf of Beijing - something it vigorously denies.
Wariness on the Conservative backbenchers has led to the creation of the China Research Group, who say we “urgently need fresh thinking about how to protect ourselves from the Chinese government’s aggressive economic policies”.
But Mr Hammond criticised the move, saying: “I'm concerned about two things. I'm concerned about the outbreak of anti-Chinese sentiment within the Conservative Party.
“As I say it's always been right to be clear-eyed about the challenges of a relationship with China and frank about the differences we have with China.
"But that seems to me, over the last few months, to have accelerated into something which is becoming a little bit more alarming.
“And at the same time, we are in a position where we need to build our trade relationships around the globe, and China is Britain's third largest trading partner, after the EU and the US, and I think we need to tread carefully in how we manage this relationship.”