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Coronavirus: Tory MPs to examine 'rise of China'

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image captionTom Tugendhat insists he and his colleagues are not "anti-China"

Britain needs a better understanding of China's economic ambitions and global role when the coronavirus crisis ends, a new group of Tory MPs says.

The group - headed by Tom Tugendhat, a prominent critic of China's response to the pandemic - aims to "promote debate and fresh thinking".

He said the China Research Group would not be "anti-China".

It would "explore opportunities to engage with" the country and examine its economic aims, Mr Tugendhat added.

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"The coronavirus crisis underlines the urgent need for a better understanding of China's place in the world, and our economic and diplomatic engagement with it," said the Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling.

"Beijing's long pattern of information suppression has contributed to the unfolding crisis. The (Chinese Communist) Party are now using the current emergency to build influence around the world."

'Falsified data'

On Friday, Mr Tugendhat, who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Chinese Communist Party of putting its own survival ahead of that of the survival of people during the coronavirus outbreak.

He told Radio 4's the World At One: "The one thing that really marks out the Chinese Communist Party is not that they didn't have sufficient data, but that they deliberately falsified the data."

Despite receiving praise for its handling of coronavirus from the World Health Organisation, many, including US President Donald Trump, have accused the Chinese authorities of manipulating information and failing to adequately warn other countries about its deadly nature.

Chen Wen, Minister and First Staff Member of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, defended China's response to the initial outbreak in Wuhan, saying the shutdown of the city had reduced the spread to other countries "by 77%".

"Chinese people have paid a high price for that," she added.

'Politically motivated'

On the alleged spreading of disinformation on the origins of the virus, Ms Chen said it was "maybe as dangerous as the virus itself, if not even more" and that "solidarity" and "cooperation" is the only way to beat the virus.

She hit back at calls for an international inquiry into China's handling of coronavirus outbreak, saying it would be "politically motivated" and would not do anybody "any good".

Mr Tugendhat said his new group, which includes eight other Tory MPs, including former cabinet minister Damian Green, would attempt to look beyond the pandemic to examine China's long-term economic and diplomatic aims.

In reference to the controversy surrounding the government's decision to allow Chinese technology firm Huawei access to the UK's 5G network, the group will look at the consequences of new technology and who owns platforms.

It will also examine China's foreign policy, particularly in relation to the world's poorer regions.

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