Bloomberg New Economy Forum

China must realise Taiwan isn't Hong Kong, says former British PM Tony Blair

Former British prime minister Tony Blair says the potential of a conflict between the US and China over Taiwan is a big anxiety. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - China needs to realise that Western countries do not view the self-ruled island of Taiwan in a similar way as they do with Hong Kong, former British prime minister Tony Blair says.

"It's important that we understand what China's position is in relation to Taiwan; how deep this 'One China' policy is," Mr Blair said in an interview on Thursday (Nov 18) with Bloomberg Television in Singapore.

"(It has) to understand that Taiwan is not the same as Hong Kong. And there are very strong views on this in the West."

Mr Blair added that the potential of a conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan was a big anxiety, and that the West needed to strengthen its own ability to deal with Beijing, while also being willing to cooperate when possible.

His comments at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum come in the same week that Chinese President Xi Jinping reasserted his country's red line with regard to separatist forces in Taiwan during a meeting with US President Joe Biden.

Mr Biden subsequently - albeit, briefly - caused some confusion by describing Taiwan as "independent" in comments to reporters, before retracting his comments.

Mr Blair praised the Xi-Biden meeting, and said America's position on China was clearly changing.

"The Americans are actually coming to the right type of policy posture towards China," he said.

"None of that means that there is not going to still be some pretty fierce action on both sides, and there are all sorts of risks and dangers with this relationship. But it remains the key to 21st century stability."

Part of the problem with dealing with Beijing, Mr Blair added, was that "no one quite knows what China really wants to achieve", and whether it was only seeking to develop its own nation or to achieve "supremacy" over the west.

He said it was clear that in the last few years, China had adopted a newly assertive posture, both domestically and on the world stage, and that this meant the West needed to become stronger in relation to Beijing - while also being willing to work with China when possible.

"We have to be strong enough to do whatever is necessary," Mr Blair said.

"But we need to engage. We need to engage, to understand, to be able to work with China, and to ensure that the relationship isn't subject to mistakes that are accidental," he said.

Such mistakes could prompt confrontation.

The New Economy Forum is being organised by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

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