China threat: Tory MP Tugendhat warns West has ‘huge challenge’ in standing up to Beijing

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Mr Tugendhat is also chairman of the recently formed China Research Group, set up by a group of Conservative MPs with the aim of promoting debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China. And, he told there was no room for complacency at a time when the behaviour of China – and specifically the Chinese Communist Party – was posing a significant challenge to norms of international behaviour.

Mr Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge Wells and Malling, said he was “concerned” at China’s increasing belligerence and the knock-on effect it was having on the ability of nations to trade freely.

And without referencing Donald Trump, Mr Tugendhat – who has been critical of the US President in the past – acknowledged difficulties had been exacerbated by a lack of Western leadership which had effectively offered Beijing more latitude than it might otherwise have had.

He said: “I think there is a lot that Western countries could do to clarify what their interests are.”

The evolving situation in Hong Kong, where China is imposing a controversial security law in the face of vociferous objections from pro-democracy protesters – represented an area where it was vital for Western leaders to make their voices heard, he said.

He added: “That’s the challenge and that is why many of us are interested in speaking out against the imposition of the security law.”

At the same time, he acknowledged the difficulties inherent in any attempt to influence the way world’s most populous nation acted on the world stage.

Mr Tugendhat said: “It’s a huge challenge and that’s why we have got to work together.”

He highlighted the Five Eyes (FVEY) alliance, comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, which dates back to the Atlantic Charter and World War 2, as crucial to any efforts to formulate a coordinated response.

In addition, he stressed the importance of developing relationships with other nations including Japan, India and South Korea, Mr Tugendhat added.

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The China Research Group was launched in April by Mr Tugendhat, together with fellow MPs Neil O’Brien, Dehenna Davison, Anthony Browne, Laura Trott, Kevin Hollinrake, Alicia Kearns, Andrew Bowie and Damian Green.

Other members include Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood, who last week told “China covets superpower status but avoids any sense of duty to uphold the core values that we enjoy – freedom, democracy, rule of law etc.

“What it is doing is promoting a competing vision, subtly forcing nations to choose sides, the authoritarian system of control versus ours.

“They are utilising Huawei and other things to ensnare small countries into its web of influence and we are seeing this in the South China Sea as well.”

A statement carried on the CRG’s newsfeed on April 7 stated: “The CRG aims to promote understanding, leading to fresh thinking about issues raised by the rise of China, and provide a trustworthy source of news and informed knowledge on China issues.

“It aims to promote greater debate about the huge challenges thrown up by the way China competes in the world.

“The new group is not anti-China and will also explore opportunities to engage with and work with the Chinese people, companies and government.

“The main aim of the group is to raise the level of understanding of issues relating to China.

“The new group will aim to inform the debate on the rise of China by holding public seminars, and inviting leading thinkers and politicians from across the West to Westminster.”

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