Sir Keir Starmer said his Government was prepared to be “robust” with China if necessary.

The Prime Minister will carry out an audit of UK-China relations to understand the scale of the challenges posed by Beijing.

Sir Keir said the Government would “take action accordingly” based on the findings of the audit.

He told reporters accompanying him at the Nato summit in Washington his approach will be “co-operation where it is necessary – and it is on issues like climate change for example”.

“But challenge where necessary, equally, and robust challenge with that.”

He added: “One of the first things that we will do is carry out the audit that we set out in our manifesto of relations with China, of UK-Chinese relations. We will get on with that audit and take action accordingly.”

The Labour manifesto promised: “We will improve the UK’s capability to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities China poses through an audit of our bilateral relationship.”