BORIS Johnson declared “I am a Sinophile” as he opened the door to a new free trade deal with China.
In an interview with The Sun, the Prime Minister spoke of his love of the Oriental superpower and said any deal would be difficult – but did not rule one out.
The warm words will stun MPs given relations with Beijing are at a modern low over Hong Kong, human rights and the Covid outbreak.
Mr Johnson said loving a country’s history and culture was not the same as supporting its government and he insisted he “disagreed vehemently” with many of Beijing’s actions.
But asked if he could see a free trade deal with China during his premiership, the PM replied: “We want to expand UK trade around the world.”
Asked again, Mr Johnson replied: “All trade deals are tough but I have great confidence in Liz Truss who has so far done 63 deals.”
The comments last night sparked concern amongst Tory MPs who want the government to rule out any such trade deal with the brutal Beijing regime.
They are furious over China’s infringement of Hong Kong, Uighur slave camps and lying to the world about the outbreak Covid-19.
‘NO PLANS’ FOR CHINA DEAL LAST MONTH
Mr Johnson’s pro-China rhetoric came amid growing confusion in Whitehall over whether the UK is pursuing a trade deal with the communist state or not.
Business minister Lord Grimstone told peers in January: “China is an important trading partner for the UK, and we are pursuing increased bilateral trade.”
But last month Trade minister Greg Hands told the Commons “we do not have a bilateral trade agreement with China… and we have no plans for a bilateral trade agreement with China.”
Last night the Inter-Parliamentary Group on China, an anti-Beijing bloc of MPs, said: “The Government need to come back to parliament and explain the reasons for this change in position.”
Their spokesman added: “The public have a right to know exactly how big the trade deal with China will be and when the PM will be signing it.”
Speaking to The Sun on Monday, Mr Johnson also said he had seen “no conclusive evidence” of the theory pushed by the US State Department that the Covid pandemic was sparked after an accident at lab in Wuhan.
But he urged the Chinese government to be more open about the early days of the bug.
He said: “It is very important that China should share with the world all the data about how the disease may or may not have originated.
“If it was a zoonotic disease, if it originated in a you know… I don’t know, a meeting between a bat or a pangolin, or whatever, we need to know.”
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Mr Johnson was asked about reports he had recently told a group of business leaders that he was a “Sinophile” – someone who loves China.
He replied: “I am a Sinophile, but that’s like saying I am a Russophile. I am a massive Russophile, I must be one of the few British PM’s to be called Boris.”
“I think there’s something about people’s culture and civilisation that you can admire while disagreeing vehemently with things their governments do.”