William Hague backs calls for an international investigation into outbreak of coronavirus as he warns the UK it must get ‘tougher’ with China and avoid becoming ‘strategically dependent’ on Beijing
- Lord Hague said that ‘we can’t solve any of the world’s problems without China’
- But warned ‘we can’t allow ourselves to be strategically dependent on China’
- Ex-foreign secretary backed call for international investigation into coronavirus
- He criticised US President Donald Trump’s approach to Beijing and the outbreak
- He also urged the government to take a ‘tougher approach’ on Huawei in UK 5G
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
William Hague today backed calls for an international investigation into the cause and spread of the coronavirus outbreak as he warned the government it must get ‘tougher’ in its dealings with China.
The former foreign secretary said the UK must not become ‘strategically dependent’ on Beijing as he urged Western nations to all adopt the same approach to the communist state.
Lord Hague said China could not be isolated because without the country’s cooperation ‘we can’t solve any of the world’s problems’ as he blasted US President Donald Trump’s decision to ‘denounce China in a nationalistic sense’.
But he suggested on key issues the UK and other nations need to do a better job of standing up to China as he urged ministers to reconsider and ‘tighten’ a decision to allow Huawei a role in building Britain’s 5G network.
Some Tory MPs are demanding a reset in relations with Beijing following the current outbreak after persistent questions about the accuracy of China’s death toll figures.
Downing Street sources have previously suggested Beijing will face a ‘reckoning’ over its handling of the outbreak.
Lord Hague today warned the UK must not become ‘strategically dependent’ on China but also insisted the West needs to find a way to cooperate with Beijing
Lord Hague was critical of Donald Trump’s approach to relations with China as he said ‘denouncing China in a nationalistic sense or withdrawing from the World Health Organisation is absolutely not the way to go about this’
But Lord Hague suggested a more nuanced approach is needed to ensure the world is well-placed to respond to future global crises.
He said: ‘I think there are really two pillars that are required of Western foreign policy towards China.
‘One of course is to recognise that we can’t solve any of the world’s problems without China. The health problems we have now are a good example but of course the existential problems of climate change are in time an even bigger example.
‘But on the other hand we can’t allow ourselves to be strategically dependent on China. It has different concepts of personal freedom, of privacy, of views on political democracy, of business competition.
‘What we have at the moment is the United States is pursuing a policy of make sure we are not strategically dependent but failing to pursue a policy of working globally with China on those pressing global issues.
‘Mainly European countries are trying to do the global cooperation on China but are allowing themselves to become strategically dependent on China.
‘The result is that in the two necessary halves of Western foreign policy, different parts of the West are pursuing a different halve.’
Mr Trump has previously referred to coronavirus as the ‘Chinese virus’ and yesterday it was announced the US is stopping its funding for the World Health Organisation.
Lord Hague said such moves are ‘absolutely not the way to go about this’ in comments likely to spark anger in the White House.
He said an international probe into the coronavirus outbreak in China is needed as he also called for the enforced closure of wildlife markets which have been identified by many as the likely source of the disease.
The Tory peer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It would be very good to have an international investigation and above all of course we need international agreement for the rigorous enforcement of the closure of live wildlife markets.
‘That is generally thought to have been the origin of this disease. That needs to happen in China and indeed many other countries in the world, in west Africa and across south east Asia – another illustration of how we need to work with China.
‘But denouncing China in a nationalistic sense or withdrawing from the World Health Organisation is absolutely not the way to go about this.
‘We are going to need structures, frameworks and international cooperation in order to solve problems like this from now on.’
Many of Lord Hague’s Conservative Party colleagues have demanded the government take a stronger stance in its dealings with China.
Ministers remain under pressure to reverse a decision to allow the Chinese tech giant Huawei to help build the UK’s 5G network.
The US has told its allies not to use Huawei in critical infrastructure because of security concerns – concerns vehemently rejected by the firm.
Lord Hague was asked if hardline Tories were right to conclude that he is on their side in wanting a tougher approach to Beijing.
He said: ‘Yes, with the very important proviso that that goes with the global cooperation at the same time.
‘But yes, they are right to see that. I think on Huawei… the government has been caught in a difficult situation because of course Huawei products have already been incorporated by some of the other companies into the 5G network and they have taken a policy of limiting the percentage share of Huawei products.
‘I think they will need to tighten that up over time and be aligned over time with our allies, the United States, Australia and others, in taking a tougher approach.’
Lord Hague said there was ‘not a great hope’ at the moment of improved cooperation between China and the West ‘but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working on that’.
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