Coronavirus: China has 'serious questions' to answer over pandemic, Tony Blair says

25 June 2020, 12:09 | Updated: 25 June 2020, 14:27

China has "serious questions" to answer over the coronavirus pandemic, Tony Blair has said.

But the former prime minister warned against a new Cold War with Beijing as a result of the global fallout from COVID-19.

Mr Blair acknowledged that the West will sometimes clash with China now that it is a great power.

However, he said it would be "misleading and dangerous" to view this as a new Cold War.

The former PM was speaking as the findings of a major survey of public opinion commissioned by his Institute for Global Change were released.

It found a shift towards a "markedly more hostile attitude" from the West towards Beijing.

The YouGov survey of citizens in the UK, US, Germany and France suggests attitudes to China have hardened during the coronavirus outbreak.

The poll indicated that 60% of British and French citizens view Beijing as a "force for bad" in the world, an opinion that is shared by 56% of people in the US and 47% in Germany.

It also found that only 3% of Britons, 4% of Germans and 5% of French and US citizens see China as a force for good in the world.

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Attitudes towards Beijing have hardened among 60% in Britain, 55% in France, 54% in the US and 46% in Germany.

Mr Blair, who was PM from 1997 to 2007, said the poll showed "there has been, during the COVID crisis, a sharp move amongst Western public opinion, to a markedly more hostile attitude towards China".

But he said western governments should take a strategic view of the relationship with Beijing rather than an "ad hoc or purely reactive" stance.

Relations between the US and China have deteriorated during Donald Trump's time in the Oval Office.

Analysis from Mr Blair's institute suggests a "light Cold War" or a "great power rivalry" between the two were the most likely scenarios.

The former PM said the rise of China was "inevitable and right" given its population, economic power and record on technological innovation.

Mr Blair said it was set to become a global superpower, but "given the deep economic links between China and the West, Cold War analogies are misleading and dangerous".

He noted that while there has been a more aggressive posture from Beijing in recent years, 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."