But Mr Cleverly warned that China’s economy would collapse if President Xi ordered an invasion of Taiwan.
Speaking at the Spectator’s fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference, the Foreign Secretary said: “We have toughened our stance on small investment from China, we have toughened our protection of freedom of speech and freedom and liberty on university campuses, we’ve been taking practical measures to protect ourselves against all forms of foreign interference.
“So the practical measures we have toughened up and if people assume that being less confrontational publicly is a softening position, they are missing the areas where they should focus on.”
Mr Cleverly said a Chinese invasion of Taiwan “would be catastrophic for the global economy”.
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He said: “Disruption to the movement of key countries, key bits of the componentry of modern life, it would be catastrophic for the global economy and it would be a catastrophically bad thing for the Chinese economy.
“It would collapse the Chinese economy and we are now seeing the Chinese economy is not all-powerful and their economic dominance is not inevitable.”
The Foreign Secretary told the crowded conference room that “disruption across the Taiwan Strait is everyone’s business” and described how his controversial meeting with China’s Vice President Han Zheng in August had shown him how much the UK can influence China’s decision-making.
He said: “We [Western countries] are all taking measures which are just nudging down on trade volumes with China and the cumulative effects are having a real impact on China.
“And when I had that discussion, [Han Zheng] listened very, very closely, his officials were looking very intense.”
Responding to criticism that visiting the country made the UK appear too soft, Mr Cleverly said: “Foreign secretary flies to foreign countries to have meetings’ should not be controversial.
“Diplomacy and foreign affairs is not just about reacting to events.
“It’s about steering events. We’re not just blown around by the winds of circumstance. We make the weather and preventing that outcome [the invasion of the Taiwan Strait] is at the absolute core of UK Foreign Policy in the Pacific.”
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