A bookmaker writes the voting odds for the next leader of the Conservative Party, and future UK prime minister, in the Westminster district of London on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg
by SCMP Editorial
by SCMP Editorial

Engaging China best for next British PM

  • Stability and prudent economic policies have never been needed more following the resignation of Liz Truss after only six weeks

When elected Britain’s prime minister by her party last month, Liz Truss joked the process had been “one of the longest job interviews in history”. Now, after six dramatic weeks, she has resigned.

Her election campaign lasted longer than her time as leader. Truss promised to deliver bold tax cuts and economic growth. But her misconceived plan, requiring a steep increase in government borrowing, led to market turmoil.

She was forced to sack her finance minister and embark on a series of embarrassing U-turns. Her credibility was shattered.

Now, the Conservative Party has begun yet another search for a new leader. The winner will be Britain’s third prime minister this year.


Outgoing UK prime minister Liz Truss joins ranks of shortest-serving world leaders

Outgoing UK prime minister Liz Truss joins ranks of shortest-serving world leaders

There is even talk of Boris Johnson, who quit the job in July after a series of scandals, making a comeback. These turbulent events in one of the world’s oldest democracies have coincided with President Xi Jinping’s moves to further consolidate his power in China.

The uncertainty in Britain, along with similar policy and leadership shifts in other Western countries, is seen by many Chinese people as strengthening Beijing’s hand. It makes it easier for China to argue that its form of government offers greater stability, consistency and better long-term planning.

Britain intends to replace Truss next week. Opposition parties are calling for a general election.

A quick decision is needed to end uncertainty and calm the markets. This time, the winner will be expected to last longer.

The right choice needs to be made. Truss had adopted a hawkish stance on China, regarding it as a threat to British interests.

Does Truss political turmoil play into China’s take on Western decline?

Despite that, Premier Li Keqiang congratulated her on her election victory last month. A foreign ministry spokesman responded to her resignation by expressing the hope that China’s relations with Britain can go forward on the basis of mutual respect.

Truss’ short tenure was dominated by domestic events. The move to bring in big tax cuts, without explaining how they would be paid for, caused market turbulence.

It is to be hoped that whoever emerges as the next prime minister understands the advantages of engaging with, rather than confronting, China. And prudent economic policies are needed – not just in Britain but around the world.