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Tensions have risen between the West and China, after US President Donald Trump repeatedly pointed the finger at the communist regime for its campaign of “disinformation” which he claims helped spread COVID-19 around-the-world, adding: “it all comes from the top – they could have easily stopped the plague, but they didn’t.” It comes after more than 120 countries across the world called for a global inquiry into China’s initial handling of the pandemic, which was met with fury in Beijing, dubbing it “highly irresponsible” and a move that would “disrupt international cooperation in fighting the pandemic and goes against people’s shared aspiration”. At the World Health Assembly earlier this week, President Xi Jinping said he would support a World Health Organisation (WHO) led investigation, but it would have to happen after the pandemic is over and focus on more than just China’s actions.
MoD insider Tobias Ellwood believes this is exactly how Beijing wants things to play out, as China seeks to flex its muscles on the international stage.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, he said: “I think we’re in an inflection point right now, COVID-19 has exposed China’s conduct, which many of us were already very conscious of for a wider audience, asking ourselves how to do business with a country that is clearly pursuing its own authoritarian agenda and expanding its influence across the globe.
“It was summed up by the resolution that went through the World Health Assembly, calling for an international inquiry into COVID-19.
“Rather than uniting the world and seeking solutions, the pandemic is actually intensifying geopolitical tensions and it’s thrown into stark relief how frail our world order has become.
“We’ve got countries retreating from global exposure and it has also exposed how dangerously confrontational today’s superpowers are willing to be.
“My real concern is that China is using this distraction of an outbreak to further its competing ideology and exploit the weakness of western resolve to actually hold them to account.”
The Bournemouth East MP said President Xi has succeeded in “diluting” a future investigation due to other countries being too scared to stand up to him.
He added: “So that World Health Assembly resolution calling for an international inquiry into the origins of the outbreak – rather than actually succeed in gaining a proper investigation to work out who patient zero was and ground zero was, we now see something far more diluted because we are hesitant of China given its growing dominance on the international stage.
“We are increasingly economically dependent on China for its cheap exports and we lack that flex of international resolve to hold the communist regime to account.
“So COVID-19 has really exposed this global power struggle, to which international institutions, such as the UN, or the WHO, are no longer able to yield any significant influence.
“This is a really big question for Britain, just as we’re marking and celebrating 75 years (of VE Day), we’ve got our heads down, looking at the challenge that we are facing domestically, but the world is changing fast around us and we need to look up and be aware and take an interest, or otherwise it will be too late.”
In recent weeks, the US has stepped up its naval exercises in disputed maritime areas, through joint exercises between the US Air Force and Marines in the South China Sea.
The USS Bunker Hill, the USS America and the USS Barry warships have all been seen, accompanied by the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Parramatta frigate in an exceptional show of force to Beijing.
But, Mr Ellwood, who was an Army captain in the Royal Green Jackets, says China knows these exercises are nothing more than empty threats, adding that countries like Britain are not in a position to step-up and back their NATO allies.
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He added: “If China took Taiwan, we would not be able to stop it, just condemn it.
“All we can do is have a presence that denies further expansion of Chinese influence because they are too big for us to stop.
“Britain couldn’t deal with a situation like that right now.
“China’s Navy is expanding the size of our Navy every year, in the last 10 years, the growth of their military capabilities has been absolutely phenomenal – to the point now that the United States would struggle to win a straight-on conflict.
“That’s what China wants, it wants to get so large that people think twice about attacking, therefore it can just take over the islands in the South China Sea, nobody can contest that.”
But Mr Ellwood says this is exactly how China wants a potential World War 3 scenario to look, while it actually carries out its real masterplan behind-the-scenes.
He continued: “It’s actually the quieter and subtler influence that is a wider concern.
“When they start taking over soft-power positions, so senior positions in the UN, senior positions in WHO, then buying up companies – taking over British and American technology companies – this is a very subtle and powerful way of decreasing our economic capabilities and our economic independence.
“We have become more and more relaxed, more and more vulnerable to Chinese state rule.
“We are ever more reliant on the digital capabilities around us, that’s satellites, internet and so ownership of data is absolutely critical.
“When it comes to military systems many of them now are completely reliable on GPS, but China is now dominating space, it’s weaponising it, it’s launching more rockets than any other nation and it’s advancing.
“It’s currently behind, but it will soon level peg with the United States.”
But, Mr Ellwood says China does have an Achilles heel which should be used to keep them at arm’s length.
He stated: “The big difference between China and the Soviet Union is that the latter was powerful independent of the West, whereas China’s Achilles heel is that its economy is reliant on global trade.
“So the answer to this is not just having more robust standard rules, we should affect directly how China benefits from the global economy.
“It’s critical for them to continue growing and to have access and connections with countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and so-on.
“COVID-19, if it’s done anything, it has woken up the world to this rather aggressive and concerning the objective of China wanting to quietly advance its own influence across the world.”
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