Published On: Mon, May 4th, 2020

Boris Johnson to stand firm on China over coronavirus – ‘Questions need to be answered!’ | UK | News


The Downing Street official made the Prime Minister’s views known following a growing international outcry about whether China’s government had disclosed the full facts about the early spread of the disease. And a leaked report from within the regime yesterday suggested Beijing’s rulers are concerned the row could lead to a major confrontation. Tensions between China and the US have increased after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there is “a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan”, the Chinese city at the centre of the initial outbreak. Asked about the claims yesterday, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters.”

But, he added: “Clearly there are questions that need to be answered about the origin and spread of the virus, not least so we can ensure we are better prepared for future global pandemics.”

Earlier yesterday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace called for China to be “transparent and open” about the origin of coronavirus.

Speaking in an LBC radio interview, he said: “Every day I get intelligence bulletins from our agencies around the world. I don’t comment on individual bulletins, what I have and haven’t seen. That would be wrong.”

Asked if China had questions to answer over how quickly it made the world aware of the extent of the crisis, Mr Wallace added: “I think it does.

“The time for the post mortem on this is after we’ve all got it under control and have come through it and our economies are back to normal.

“China needs to be open and transparent about what it learnt, it’s shortcomings but also its successes.”

Boris Johnson and President Xi

Boris Johnson will stand firm with China over coronavirus (Image: getty)

Donald Trump

Donald Trump has attacked China over coronavirus (Image: getty)

Tory MP Neil O’Brien, secretary of the backbench China Reform Group, said: “China should start giving access to the World Health Organisation to investigate, and stop bullying countries that ask perfectly reasonable questions about its handling of the crisis.

“Beijing has arrested journalists and is still doing so. It accused the doctor who tried to raise the alarm of ‘making false comments’ and he later died.

“The Communist Party has massive questions to answer as its secretive and repressive system has contributed to disaster for the world. “

Senior Tories launched the China Research Group last month to gather information about China’s role in the world.

Amid the international outcry, the leaked Chinese Communist Party report yesterday suggested the regime’s leaders are becoming sensitive to world opinion as the coronavirus pandemic rages around the world.

The report, presented early last month by the Ministry of State Security to top Beijing leaders including President Xi Jinping, concluded that global anti-China sentiment is at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

READ MORE: Real reason WHO waited 72 days to declare pandemic revealed

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: ‘Clearly there are questions that need to be answered’ (Image: getty)

The report was drawn up by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, China’s top intelligence body.

A source in the regime was reported to have given details of the document’s contents to the Reuters news agency.

But the Chinese foreign ministry declined to discuss the document.

“I don’t have relevant information,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson’s office said in a statement responding to questions from Reuters on the report.

China’s Ministry of State Security has no public contact details and could not be reached for comment.

CICIR, an influential think tank that until 1980 was within the Ministry of State Security and advises the Chinese government on foreign and security policy, did not reply to a request for comment.

Reuters couldn’t determine to what extent the stark assessment described in the paper reflects positions held by China’s state leaders, and to what extent, if at all, it would influence policy.

Coronavirus symptoms

Coronavirus: Symptoms of the deadly virus (Image: nc)

But the presentation of the report shows how seriously Beijing takes the threat of a building backlash that could threaten what China sees as its strategic investments overseas and its view of its security standing.

Relations between China and the United States are widely seen to be at their worst point in decades, with deepening mistrust and friction points from US allegations of unfair trade and technology practices to disputes over Hong Kong, Taiwan and contested territories in the South China Sea.

In recent days, US President Donald Trump, facing a more difficult re-election campaign as the coronavirus has claimed tens of thousands of American lives and ravaged the US economy, has been ramping up his criticism of Beijing and threatening new tariffs on China. His administration, meanwhile, is considering retaliatory measures against China over the outbreak, officials said.

It is widely believed in Beijing that the United States wants to contain a rising China, which has become more assertive globally as its economy has grown.

The paper concluded that Washington views China’s rise as an economic and national security threat and a challenge to Western democracies, the people said. The report also said the United States was aiming to undercut the ruling Communist Party by undermining public confidence.

Chinese officials had a “special responsibility” to inform their people and the world of the threat posed by the coronavirus “since they were the first to learn of it,” US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in response to questions from Reuters.

Without directly addressing the assessment made in the Chinese report, Ortagus added: “Beijing’s efforts to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens and spread disinformation exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis.”

A spokesman for the US National Security Council declined to comment.

The report described to Reuters warned that anti-China sentiment sparked by the coronavirus could fuel resistance to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure investment projects, and that Washington could step up financial and military support for regional allies, making the security situation in Asia more volatile.

Three decades ago, in the aftermath of Tiananmen, the United States and many Western governments imposed sanctions against China including banning or restricting arms sales and technology transfers.

China is far more powerful nowadays.

Xi has revamped China’s military strategy to create a fighting force equipped to win modern wars. He is expanding China’s air and naval reach in a challenge to more than 70 years of US military dominance in Asia.

In its statement, China’s foreign ministry called for cooperation, saying, “the sound and steady development of China-US relations” serve the interests of both countries and the international community.

It added: “Any words or actions that engage in political manipulation or stigmatisation under the pretext of the pandemic, including taking the opportunity to sow discord between countries, are not conducive to international cooperation against the pandemic.”

One of those with knowledge of the report said it was regarded by some in the Chinese intelligence community as China’s version of the “Novikov Telegram”, a 1946 dispatch by the Soviet ambassador to Washington, Nikolai Novikov, that stressed the dangers of US economic and military ambition in the wake of World War Two.

Novikov’s missive was a response to US diplomat George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” from Moscow that said the Soviet Union did not see the possibility for peaceful coexistence with the West, and that containment was the best long-term strategy.

Coronavirus cases

Coronavirus cases across the globe (Image: nc)

The two documents helped set the stage for the strategic thinking that defined both sides of the Cold War.

China has been accused by the United States of suppressing early information on the virus, which was first detected in the central city of Wuhan, and downplaying its risks.

Beijing has repeatedly denied that it covered up the extent or severity of the virus outbreak.

China has managed to contain the domestic spread of the virus and has been trying to assert a leading role in the global battle against COVID-19. That has included a propaganda push around its donations and sale of medical supplies to the United States and other countries and sharing of expertise.

But China faces a growing backlash from critics who have called to hold Beijing accountable for its role in the pandemic.

President Trump has threatened to cut off funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), which he called “very China-centric,” something WHO officials have denied.

Australia’s government has called for an international investigation into the origins and spread of the virus.

Last month, France summoned China’s ambassador to protest a publication on the website of China’s embassy that criticised Western handling of coronavirus.

The virus has so far infected more than three million people globally and caused more than 200,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.



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