LONDON: China has been able to aggressively target the United Kingdom because of London’s “failure” to develop an effective strategy for dealing with the “national security threats” from Beijing, the BBC reported, citing a report by the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).
Accusing the UK government of “failing to recognise the issues involved”, the report stated that China has penetrated “every sector” of the UK’s economy.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that the government had taken measures to prevent interference by reducing Britain’s reliance on Chinese technology, but he wanted to have “open” and “constructive” relations with China, adding that he was “keenly aware” there was more to do, the BBC noted in its report.
“China’s size, ambition and capability have enabled it to successfully penetrate every sector of the UK’s economy,” stated the report, which was critical of the Conservative government.
It added that the level of resources dedicated to tackling the threat of China’s “whole-of-state” approach “has been completely inadequate”.
“The nature of China’s engagement, influence and interference activity may be difficult to detect,” the report stated further.
Further as per the report, what is even more concerning is the fact that the “government may not previously have been looking for it”.
“The intelligence agencies’ focus on covert Chinese activity meant that they did not even recognise that they had any responsibility for countering Chinese interference activity in the UK,” BBC stated in its report.
The report took a critical view of China’s alleged interference in UK academia, targeting of industry and technology, investment deals involving China and its alleged involvement in the UK’s critical national infrastructure.
The report stated further that Chinese investment in the UK, has “gone unchecked”. It also expressed “serious concern” at the fact that the government, in the committee’s view, “does not want there to be any meaningful scrutiny of sensitive investment deals”.
“The government has shown very little interest in warnings from academia, about China’s leveraging of fees and funding, influence over UK academics through inducements and intimidation and the monitoring and controlling of Chinese students,” the report went further.
It added that some academic institutions “seem to be turning a blind eye” to such efforts, “happy simply to take the money”.
The report also raised concerns on overt Chinese acquisition routes being welcomed by the government “regardless of the risks to national security.”
Expressing grave concerns on the matter, Committee Chairman Julian Lewis termed the situation a “nightmare scenario”.
“We are on a trajectory for the nightmare scenario where China steals blueprints, sets standards, and builds products, exerting political and economic influence at every step,” BBC stated further in the report.
On Chinese investment in the UK’s energy sector, the report has said that it is “naive to assume that allowing Chinese companies to exert influence over the UK’s civil nuclear and energy sectors is not ceding control to the Chinese Communist Party”.
“We question how any department can consider that a foreign country single-handedly running our nuclear power stations shouldn’t give pause for thought,” the report added.
Responding to the report, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he still wanted to have “constructive” relations with China, but also acknowledged that it posed “an epoch-defining challenge to the international order”.
Sunak, who has reportedly been under pressure from some members in his party to take a tougher stance on China, said, “We are not complacent and are keenly aware that there is more to do.”
The UK PM also highlighted that the ISC probe began in 2019 and collected most of its evidence in 2020, which pre-dated security reviews in 2021 and 2023, the BBC reported.
“These comprehensive national security and international policy reviews considerably strengthen the UK’s position on China. The government has already taken actions that are in line with many of the committee’s recommendations,” the BBC quoted Sunak as saying.
However, ISC members expressed surprise at how long it has taken for a process to be put in place to identify and protect UK assets, calling it a “serious failure” and one that the UK may feel the “consequences of for years to come”.
“The committee recognises the difficult trade-offs involved in balancing security and prosperity, but it urges the government to ensure that it has its house in order such that security concerns are not constantly trumped by economic interest,” BBC quoted the ISC members as saying in the report. (ANI)