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Wed, 25 November 2020

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Tory grandee Iain Duncan Smith urges No10 to 'rethink' China ties in wake of coronavirus crisis

Tory grandee Iain Duncan Smith urges No10 to 'rethink' China ties in wake of coronavirus crisis

Iain Duncan Smith has urged No10 to review its relationship with China

3 min read

Conservative grandee Sir Iain Duncan Smith has urged Boris Johnson to "rethink" Britain's relationship with China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The former Tory party leader accused China of a "cover-up" as he urged Western leaders stop "kow-towing" to the country once the outbreak is over.

It comes as the Mail on Sunday reports that furious ministers are demanding that the PM launches a review of the UK's relationship with the communist state amid claims China's leaders have deliberately downplayed the impact of the deadly virus.

Writing in the same paper, Mr Duncan Smith highlighted two cases of Chinese doctors in Wuhan who were reportedly silenced by authorities for attempting to warn the world about the outbreak months before it took hold.

"As a result of Beijing's cover-up and delay, global health experts are convinced the rest of the world had insufficient time to prepare for the pandemic, which means the effect of the outbreak has most likely been worse," he said.

"The brutal truth is that China seems to flout the normal rules of behaviour in every area of life - from healthcare to trade and from currency manipulation to internal repression."

The Chingford MP, who has been a leading critic of the government's decision to allow Chinese firm Huawei to build elements of the UK's 5G network, said "countless" leaders had been willing to "brush aside" concerns over Beijing's human rights record in an effort to secure trade deals with the country.

And he warned: "For too long, nations have lamely kow-towed to China in the desperate hope of winning trade deals.

"But one we get clear of this terrible pandemic, it is imperative that we all rethink that relationship and put it on a much more balanced and honest basis."

The intervention came as the Mail on Sunday reported that Boris Johnson has already been warned by scientific advisers that China's officially-declared cases could have been "downplayed by a factor of 15 to 40 times".

One senior cabinet minister said: "We can't stand by and allow the Chinese state's desire for secrecy to ruin the world's economy and then come back like nothing has happened. We're allowing companies like Huawei not just into our economy, but to be a crucial part of our infrastructure.

"This needs to be reviewed urgently, as does any strategically important infrastructure that relies on Chinese supply chains."

Meanwhile, another Downing Street source said: "There is a disgusting disinformation campaign going on and it is unacceptable. They [the Chinese government] know they have got this badly wrong and rather than owning it they are spreading lies."

Ministers hope a comprenhensive review of the UK's foreign policy - delayed due to the outbreak - could provide an opportunity to reset the relationship with China if it fails to implement reforms in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

One government source close to the review, said: "It is going to be back to the diplomatic drawing board after this. Rethink is an understatement."

Another added: "There has to be a reckoning when this is over."

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