China ‘using distraction of coronavirus to further competing ideology’, MoD insider warns

China ‘using distraction of coronavirus to further competing ideology’, MoD insider warns

The deadly virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has now infected more than five million people worldwide, claiming 300,000 lives in the process and affecting billions more. Spearheaded by Australia, more than 120 countries called for a global inquiry into China’s initial handling of the pandemic, which was met with fury in Beijing, dubbing it “highly irresponsible” and a move that would “disrupt international cooperation in fighting the pandemic and goes against people’s shared aspiration”. At the World Health Assembly earlier this week, President Xi Jinping agreed China would support a World Health Organisation (WHO) led investigation, but there were two major stipulations – that it happens after the pandemic is over and would focus on more than just China’s actions.

Now, Chair of the Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, says China is buying time while it attempts to use the fog of the current pandemic for its own benefit.

Speaking to Express.co.uk exclusively, he said: “I think we’re in an inflection point right now.

“COVID-19 has exposed China’s conduct, which many of us were already very conscious of, for a wider audience – asking ourselves how to do business with a country that is clearly pursuing its own authoritarian agenda and expanding its influence across the globe.

“It was summed up by the resolution that went through the World Health Assembly, calling for an international inquiry into COVID-19.

Tobias Ellwood says China is using the distraction of COVID-19 for its own benefit

Tobias Ellwood says China is using the distraction of COVID-19 for its own benefit (Image: GETTY)

Tobias Ellwood is the former Government Minister to the Ministry of Defence

Tobias Ellwood is the former Government Minister to the Ministry of Defence (Image: GETTY)

“Rather than uniting the world and seeking solutions, the pandemic is actually intensifying geopolitical tensions and it’s thrown into stark relief how frail our world order has become.

“We’ve got countries retreating from global exposure and it has also exposed how dangerously confrontational today’s superpowers are willing to be.

“My real concern is that China is using this distraction of an outbreak to further its competing ideology and exploit the weakness of western resolve to actually hold them to account.”

The Bournemouth East MP said President Xi has succeeded in “diluting” a future investigation due to other countries being too scared to stand up to his communist regime.

He added: “So that World Health Assembly resolution calling for an international inquiry into the origins of the outbreak – rather than actually succeed in gaining a proper investigation to work out who patient zero was and ground zero was, we now see something far more diluted because we are hesitant of China given its growing dominance on the international stage.

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The outbreak is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China

The outbreak is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China (Image: GETTY)

“We are increasingly economically dependent on China for its cheap exports and we lack that flex of international resolve to hold the communist regime to account.

“So COVID-19 has really exposed this global power struggle, to which international institutions, such as the UN, or the WHO, are no longer able to yield any significant influence.

“This is a really big question for Britain, just as we’re marking and celebrating 75 years (of VE Day), we’ve got our heads down, looking at the challenge that we are facing domestically, but the world is changing fast around us and we need to look up and be aware and take an interest, or otherwise it will be too late.”

Mr Ellwood went on to claim China is buying up influence in numerous countries with its exports, but also slowly pushing its delegates into “soft positions” on the international stage to buy up influence on global politics.

He added: “What we’ve got is a trade war that’s ensuing that could easily lead to a Cold War, and the reason why is you have a clash of geopolitical ideologies.

“China’s surveillance-approach to doing business, and influence over other parts of the world through its debt-trap diplomacy, is leading many neutral or smaller countries to make binary choices.

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Scott Morrison wants an inquiry into China's handling of the virus

Scott Morrison wants an inquiry into China’s handling of the virus (Image: GETTY)

There have now been more than five million cases of coronavirus worldwide

There have now been more than five million cases of coronavirus worldwide (Image: GETTY)

“[They are thinking] ‘Do I leap towards the West, or do I take the cheap goods and services offered by China and turn a blind eye to the conditions that come with it?’

“At the moment we are just seeing countries take on China’s influence and then get themselves into debt, take on China’s technology and then become servants to their lack of transparency.

“In some cases, leaders that are nervous about their own longevity will actually enjoy greater control over their own people.

“Yet the West feels unable to stand up to China, we’ve moved from the punishment that we saw in the last Cold War – if Russia did attack, we would retaliate – to a position of denial.”

The former Royal Green Jackets Army captain, who served as a Government Minister at the Ministry of Defence from 2017 to 2019, says China could easily pursue an aggressive expansion on neighbouring Asian countries if it wanted to but does not see things panning out like that.

Xi Jinping hit back over calls for an inquiry

Xi Jinping hit back over calls for an inquiry (Image: GETTY)

He continued: “If China took Taiwan, we would not be able to stop it, just condemn it.

“All we can do is have a presence that denies further expansion of Chinese influence because they are too big for us to stop.

“China’s Navy is expanding the size of our Navy every year, in the last 10 years, the growth of their military capabilities has been absolutely phenomenal – to the point now that the United States would struggle to win a straight-on conflict.

“That’s what China wants, it wants to get so large that people think twice about attacking, therefore it can just take over the islands in the South China Sea, nobody can contest that.

“But it’s actually the quieter and subtler influence that is a wider concern.

“When they start taking over soft-power positions, so senior positions in the UN, senior positions in WHO, then buying up companies – taking over British and American technology companies – this is a very subtle and powerful way of decreasing our economic capabilities and our economic independence.

“When they start taking over soft-power positions, so senior positions in the UN, senior positions in WHO, then buying up companies – taking over British and American technology companies – this is a very subtle and powerful way of decreasing our economic capabilities and our economic independence.

More than 300,000 people have lost their lives

More than 300,000 people have lost their lives (Image: GETTY)

Tobias Ellwood urged for caution over relationships with China

Tobias Ellwood urged for caution over relationships with China (Image: GETTY)

“We have become more and more relaxed, more and more vulnerable to Chinese state rule.”

Instead, Mr Ellwood highlighted what he believes to be the best way to control Beijing.

He said: “The big difference between China and the Soviet Union is that the latter was powerful independent of the West, whereas China’s Achilles heel is that its economy is reliant on global trade.

“So the answer to this is not just having more robust standard rules, we should affect directly how China benefits from the global economy. 

“It’s critical for them to continue growing and to have access and connections with countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and so-on.

“COVID-19, if it’s done anything, it has woken up the world to this rather aggressive and concerning the objective of China wanting to quietly advance its own influence across the world.”

Published at Thu, 21 May 2020 07:49:00 +0000