In UK’s best interests, Liz Truss should put aside her ideology: China Daily contributor

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Liz Truss was confirmed on Monday as the new leader of the Conservative Party and the prime minister of the United Kingdom, beating her rival, Rishi Sunak.

Truss, known for her highly ideological worldview and hawkish foreign policy, replaces Boris Johnson in Number 10, after he was forced out of office following a series of scandals which tarnished the reputation of his government.

Truss had secured her ascendency as part of his cabinet, having served first as trade minister and then foreign secretary.

Truss’s tenure as prime minister however, is off to an uneasy start.

Things are not well in the UK.

The economy is in contraction and will soon enter a formal recession.

Inflation is soaring, with economists predicting that it could rise up to 23 per cent by next year, and energy bills are skyrocketing as a consequence of the impact of the Ukraine conflict on energy markets.

Truss also faces the dilemma that she has been elected by only the actual members of the Conservative Party, she is largely unpopular among the public in the UK.

She has vowed to almost immediately take action on bringing power bills down, but aside from an immediate cap it remains to be seen what she proposes to do to bring down prices.

But there is another elephant in the room too: China.

Liz Truss is a vocal China hawk who took every opportunity as foreign secretary to be critical of Beijing and enthusiastically joined the bandwagon of any US initiatives.

She replaces the more balanced and favourable approach of Boris Johnson, who had described himself as a “Sinophile” and would have been supportive of the UK’s economic engagement with China were it not for the United States.

Truss however, has consistently and publicly sought confrontation with Beijing during her tenure as foreign secretary, with rhetoric that has been a mix of both UK chauvinism and ideological crusading.

She has pushed concepts such as a “Network of Liberty”, talked about “bringing countries into the orbit of democratic, free market democracies” and argued that ideology should ultimately come first when it comes to trade.

The leadership contest with Rishi Sunak quickly become a “race to the bottom” in respect to China bashing, with each candidate seeking to rigorously “out hawk” the other.