Who is Rishi Sunak? Prime ministerial hopeful who says China is ‘largest threat’ to Britain

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Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor of the exchequer, Britain’s chief financial officer, is running to become the United Kingdom’s next prime minister, casting himself as the candidate who can address its flagging economy.

Sunak, 42, who is vying to be the next leader of the Conservative Party against Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, was a prominent figure in outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet until his resignation and steered the country’s economy through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The economy has been a sticking point for both candidates, though Sunak has said he would focus on tampering inflation rates before cutting taxes, arguing that it would increase the public debt and be worse for people in the long run if not addressed.

“It’s not moral to ask our children to pick up the tab for the bills that we’re not prepared to pay,” Sunak said at a debate Monday night.

Sunak, who has been accused of taking a softened stance on China, said Monday that the Chinese Communist Party represented the “largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century.”

To tackle Chinese cyberthreats, Sunak has proposed building a new international alliance of “free nations” to share best practices in technology security.

Sunak was first elected as the Conservative member of Parliament for Richmond in May 2015. He has served in numerous positions, including parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. In February 2020, Sunak was appointed as chancellor of the exchequer.

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As chancellor, Sunak rolled out a number of aid packages for businesses and residents to help them financially through the pandemic. Earlier this year, he unveiled a plan worth 15 billion euros that was aimed at providing relief to households struggling with the rising cost of living in the country.

He served in the role until July 5, 2022, when he resigned, signaling he had lost confidence in Johnson’s ability to lead the party. Prior to his time in politics, Sunak spent years working in finance and “co-founded an investment firm working with companies in multiple geographies,” according to his biography on the U.K. government’s website.

Sunak is battling Truss, who he has accused of telling “fairy tales,” referring to the potential fallout of her proposed tax cuts, to become Johnson’s successor after he resigned earlier in July after months of being plagued with ethical scandals and a mass exodus of ministers from his government.

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Sunak and Truss will campaign for the support of about 180,000 Conservative Party members who will vote in the coming weeks by mail or online ballot for their preferred leader. The winner of the Conservative Party leadership vote will be announced on Sept. 5 and automatically take over the duties as prime minister.