Tony Blair warned on a new ‘Cold War’ with China today as polling showed Britons blame Beijing more than Boris Johnson for coronavirus chaos.
Research for the former PM’s think-tank found the UK public have a ‘markedly more hostile attitude’ towards the Asian power since the pandemic erupted.
Some 60 per cent viewed China as a ‘force for bad’ in the world, while large numbers said it bore more responsibility than ministers for the severity of the crisis.
Mr Blair said China had ‘serious questions’ to answer about the Covid-19 outbreak, as the YouGov survey showed the attitudes were mirrored across Western countries.
But he urged the West to take a strategic view of the relationship with Beijing, recognising it has a seat at the top table and cooperating where possible.
Tony Blair (file picture) warned on a new ‘Cold War’ with China today as polling showed Britons blame Beijing more than Boris Johnson for coronavirus chaos
In common with the UK, 60 per cent of French citizens viewed China as a global ‘force for bad’, a view shared by 56 per cent in the US and 47 per cent in Germany
The poll for Mr Blair’s Global Institute for Change found views of China in the West had deteriorated sharply since the pandemic
The poll of citizens in the UK, US, Germany and France suggested that attitudes to Beijing had hardened during the pandemic.
In common with the UK, 60 per cent of French citizens viewed China as a global ‘force for bad’, a view shared by 56 per cent in the US and 47 per cent in Germany.
Just 3 per cent of Britons, 4 per cent of Germans and 5 per cent of French and US citizens viewed China as a force for good.
Attitudes towards Xi Jinping’s government had hardened since the pandemic among 60 per cent in Britain, 55 per cent in France, 54 per cent in the US and 46 per cent in Germany.
Meanwhile, when asked to identify who was most responsible for the severity of the pandemic, 49 per cent of Britons named China, while 40 per cent pointed to the UK government.
Mr Blair, who is believed to have extensive business interests in China, said the polling showed ‘there has been, during the Covid crisis, a sharp move amongst Western public opinion, to a markedly more hostile attitude towards China’.
Relations, especially between Donald Trump’s US and China, have deteriorated markedly in recent years.
Analysis by Mr Blair’s institute suggest a ‘light Cold War’ or a ‘great power rivalry’ between the two were the most likely scenarios.
Mr Blair said the rise of China was both ‘inevitable and right’ given its population, economic power and record on technological innovation and it was set to become a global superpower.
But he stressed that ‘given the deep economic links between China and the West, Cold War analogies are misleading and dangerous’.
There had been a more aggressive posture from Beijing, both internally and externally, with ‘more combative’ relations with countries with which it has disagreements.
But the Chinese people are not the same as the Chinese Communist Party and ‘if change comes to the way China is governed it will come from within’.
Mr Blair added: ‘It is in the interests of no one that China is anything other than stable and prosperous.’
The West will have to be prepared to confront China where its actions go against the interests of the wider international community and must be able to compete with Beijing but also co-operate where necessary.
The US, Europe and like-minded Asian countries must stand together so that any partnership with China ‘comes from a position of strength’.
The West must ‘actively and intensely’ engage with China – both at the level of Government and people-to- people – in order to ‘enlarge the space for cooperation, shrink that of confrontation and keep competition according to international laws and norms’.
When asked to identify one or two entities that were most responsible for the severity of the pandemic, 49 per cent of Britons named China, while 40 per cent pointed to the UK government