X Close

How the CCP infiltrated Britain Cameron foolishly took China at its word

David Cameron in Beijing, 2013 (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

David Cameron in Beijing, 2013 (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)


December 19, 2023   8 mins

Nearly four years after reports first emerged from Wuhan of a mystery virus filling hospitals with sick patients, we are told of an “unidentified pneumonia” circulating in China. Unlike last time, however, a healthy number of sceptics have been paying close attention. One side effect of Covid has been the puncturing of our illusions about the Chinese medical establishment’s ability to withstand Communist Party pressure. Our naivety on that front is unlikely repeat itself if another pandemic emerges.

There is less agreement about the onset of our second bout of David Cameron. His appointment as Foreign Secretary last month roughly coincided with Xi Jinping’s first visit to the United States since 2017. The two events conspired to convey a sense of things going “back to normal” on China. There were Biden and Xi smiling together. Here was Cameron, who during his time as prime minister instigated a “golden era” of relations with China, responsible for Britain’s foreign policy.

Have we learnt the lessons of that era? Or, pandemics aside, do we remain naive about the CCP? An exchange last month between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions offers some clues. Starmer began his attack with a jab at our new Foreign Secretary’s work with Beijing since leaving office in 2016, citing concerns expressed by the security services that Cameron’s jaunty and likely lucrative interim may have been “engineered” by the Chinese government, who clearly think they have a friend in Dave.

In response, Sunak delivered a string of official terminology: “The government’s position on China is clear: China represents an epoch-defining challenge, that’s why we have taken strong and robust steps to protect ourselves against the risk that it poses.” He went on to say he wouldn’t take lectures from Labour, who have “taken almost £700,000 from an alleged Chinese agent!” Their discussion of China ended there.

Sunak’s accusation aimed to strike a nerve. In January 2022, MI5 issued a warning to MPs about Christine Lee, a lawyer known for her connections across the political spectrum and for donations to Labour and the Lib Dems. Lee was also known in the British Chinese community for having campaigned to raise its election turnout rates, and for an initiative to identify and promote young British-Chinese politicians.

This was not, however, a classic case of “spies expose secret information in service of public”. MI5 were alleging that Lee’s donations were engineered by the CCP, which no publicly available data seems to suggest. Lee’s work and closeness with the CCP, however, were openly described — albeit in Mandarin — on Chinese government websites, where she was named as a “director” of a body overseen by the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), which operates mostly in China but has a side-hustle running influence and interference operations abroad. This had been the case since 2018 and had been highlighted by news articles and a book on CCP infiltration published in 2020.

Lee’s connections in China were even older. In fact — and this is a key point routinely overlooked — they were a crucial part of her influence in the UK in the first place. MI5’s announcement was the first time the UFWD was named as a specific threat in the UK, but during Cameron’s “golden era”, those with connections to the UFWD were hailed by the British government as “bridge builders” and “ice breakers” and given opportunities to make money and friends in high places. Lee’s own law firm was listed as a preferred partner by the Department for International Trade up until a week or so before MI5 outed her in January 2022.

At that time, the rumour among China watchers was that MI5’s notice — which came to light amid the scandal over lockdown parties in No. 10 — had been, as one person put it, “sitting on a desk in the Home Office for a long time”. It was supposedly released by Priti Patel, then Home Secretary, to divert media attention from the lockdown parties.

Few people know whether this is true. Certainly, however, the notice has not been truly substantiated, the promise of further such notices (and an inquiry) has not materialised, and Lee is suing the Government. Hence Sunak’s surreal use of the phrase “alleged Chinese agent”. It is, after all, the Government that “alleged” Lee was an agent. There remains no alternative account of why the warning was released when it was.

No similar notice has been issued about Xuelin Bates, a Conservative party donor who married Lord Michael Bates in 2012. During Bates’s nearly two-year stint at the Home Office, during which time he worked as under-secretary for Criminal Information, Xuelin worked as a consultant for the Chinese government while appearing at events to promote Chinese education and business alongside a convicted fraudster linked by court judgments to the proceeds of organised crime. Shortly after Bates stopped his work as a Minister of State in the Department for International Development in 2019, Xuelin was appointed to a role at the same UFWD-overseen body in China as Christine Lee.

This hardly sounds like a house well in order. Many within the British state are still surveying the damage, patching leaks, and wondering how deep the rot has set. Part of the problem is that China is not limited to conventional intelligence services such as the Ministry of State Security (MSS) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intelligence wing, which are comparable — though much less constrained in their operation — to Western intelligence agencies. Rather, it operates in a far more unfamiliar, sweeping, penetrating manner with intelligence and surveillance running through the CCP at every level.

Take the UFWD, which is one of the six main CCP departments. One of its formal responsibilities is to gather intelligence on the activities of what it calls “Overseas Chinese”, which mostly includes recent or temporary Chinese-born migrants in places including the UK. For the purposes of so-called “Overseas Chinese Affairs” — a category important and well-known enough to be given a two-syllable acronym, qiaowu (äŸšćŠĄ) — the UFWD can call upon a senior official in the Chinese embassy in London, Jiang Lei.

Part of Jiang’s job as “Overseas Chinese Affairs Counsellor” is to go to as many “Overseas Chinese” events as possible — from sports prize ceremonies and cultural evenings to business networking meet-ups and academic conferences. At these events, Jiang can network with and offer business opportunities to all manner of people. The British Chinese businessman at the centre of the “Chinese overseas police stations” furore openly discussed the UFWD’s assistance for “Overseas Chinese” entrepreneurs in an online interview with Chinese state media.

As well as micro-managing Chinese civil society outside of China, CCP surveillance also targets Westerners. UFWD cadres tend to zoom in on an influential British person or group who appear sympathetic to China — and then seduce them with promises of funding, prestige, paid work, and useful connections. This form of “soft espionage” targets business, research, public bodies, culture, industry, and politics, shaping narratives and gathering information.

The complexity of this holistic approach partly explains why British politicians disagree so much over how to define the threat China poses. The Government’s “Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy”, published in 2021, called China “the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security”, “an increasingly important partner in tackling global challenges like pandemic preparedness, biodiversity and climate change”, and more simply as a “systemic competitor”. A later version of the review called China an “epoch-defining and systemic challenge” — hence Sunak’s recital.

Many have since lined up to criticise this nauseating pick-and-mix approach, calling for China to be labelled a “threat”. But the symbolic discussion about rhetoric has also morphed into a concrete one about policy. The Government is currently drawing up plans for a formal registry of foreign influence agents. This could classify China as a “threat” in such a way that would affect the “grey-zone” activities of Lee and Bates and their ilk.

Whatever form the registry takes, it is unlikely to be a panacea. The Australian and American versions are deeply flawed. In Australia’s case, the public register introduced in 2018 was at one point spammed by former PM Kevin Rudd in an act of protest. In the US, there are unfeasibly few China-related entries, and the system functions more than anything as a way of prosecuting those who fail to register, as in the case of individuals associated with one of China’s “overseas police service stations”.

The UK government is currently consulting over exactly how the register should work, with unenthusiastic parties, such as China-facing consultancies, asked to share their concerns. Businesses have also been given the chance to state objections regarding separate powers, legislated for in 2021, that enable the Government to scrutinise investments by Chinese entities in sensitive industries. There thus remain doubts about the “strong and robust steps” Sunak referred to in the Commons — especially since there has long been a sense that big business, hooked on China’s huge market, continues to pull the Government back.

The response of the CCP-sceptic lobby to this dynamic has been to cast doing business with China as a “risk”, and to brand moving investments out of China — or “de-risking” — as a means of protecting future balance sheets. Key to this argument have been tensions over Taiwan. If China invades, so the story goes, and if the US sanctions China, then your company will pay for not “de-risking”.

The conversation about British “de-risking” ought to be fraught. Between 2012 and 2022, China was the UK’s seventh-fastest growing export market — a significant statistic given that the six countries ahead of China were all smaller geographically than England (North Macedonia, Panama, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Switzerland, Gibraltar). Most important, however, is the fact that the UK’s bloated financial sector is massively exposed to China, by some metrics more than any other Western country.

In October, UK banks held secretive meetings about this exposure and drew up an overview that they shared with Western governments. The UK’s largest bank, HSBC, is in a particularly tight spot following attempts by a Chinese shareholder — seen off for now — to split the bank in two, with its profitable Asian business going to a theoretical China-headquartered daughter firm. The coup attempt was dealt with partly by reference from executives to healthy profits. But given that nearly half of the bank’s profits are made in China, is there any way HSBC can perform an elegant “de-risking”? Probably not, which means that if the “Taiwan risk story” comes true, the UK will suffer an exceptional hit.

With Britain facing such towering risks and diplomatic sensitivities, good judgement is required. Lost amid the outpouring of disdain for Cameron’s lobbying for Beijing is the real scandal: our new Foreign Secretary’s “epoch-defining” record of poor judgement on China.

The key is 2013. That year, Xi sealed his position as China’s undisputed leader by releasing a communique, Document Number Nine, which stated that China was being infiltrated by “Western anti-China forces” posing a threat to the existence of the CCP, and that an aggressive counter-offensive was required. Free media, free speech, academic freedom, economic liberalism, independence movements are all bad, per Document Number Nine, and must be obliterated within China.

This was the year that Cameron chose to launch an unprecedented period of UK-China cooperation. As British civil servants, university administrators, and business executives began to devise ways to make sure Britain became China’s “best friend in the West”, CCP cadres and officials executed Xi’s aggressive counterattack.

All the while, the CCP worked hard to propagate the image of a friendly Xi, peaceful and productive. Pumping money into academic institutions and the media helped (The Telegraph, The Financial Times and The Economist have all been paid to publish CCP propaganda). This was Xi the eco-warrior, the anti-corruption crusader, the defender of globalisation. Above all, this Xi was nothing to be feared. As he told the United Nations in 2017: “For several millennia, peace has been in the blood of us Chinese and a part of our DNA.”

Document Number Nine was largely ignored in the West, but it set the tone for a transformation in Chinese society: the implementation of Xi Jinping’s personality cult, the securitisation of society, a military build-up, political purges, the neutralisation of Hong Kong, the intensification of ethnic cleansing in China’s colonies of Tibet and Xinjiang, a revolution in “Overseas Chinese affairs” work, territorial clashes with China’s Indian and Bhutanese neighbours, support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and more assertive incursions against Taiwan and the coastal waters of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

Taken together, these policies make the character of Xi and his regime clear. The writing is on the wall. Yet, even now, we have only half woken up to it. Some still see Xi as peaceful, at worst merely a committed and effective “CEO China” who has amassed power “without bloodshed”, as one prominent British professor, Kerry Brown, wishes us to believe.

This is not to say that our politicians and diplomats should go out and insult China or commit to defending Taiwan or the Philippines. Nor is it to say that it is Britain’s job to challenge China on the world stage, or to follow the United States in whatever Pacific tangle it might find itself in. It is just that whatever else Britain’s China policy does, it must never again make Cameron’s mistake of taking the CCP at its word. It must guard first and foremost against the illusions that would incapacitate us.

The Romans said “Fas est et ab hoste doceri” — right it is to learn, even from the enemy. Whether or not the UK government chooses to designate the CCP as an “enemy”, we should aspire to learn from one of its favourite slogans “shishi qiushi” — seek truth from facts.

***

The views expressed here are personal, not those of UKCT.


Sam Dunning is a writer and researcher who serves as director of UK-China Transparency, a charity that promotes education about ties between the UK and China.

 

samdunningo

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

67 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andrew R
Andrew R
6 months ago

What a time to be alive where almost every governing body at every level: international, national, regional, local, elected and unelected (NGO, Quango, Think Tank, Charity) is rotten throughout. Self serving and parasitic with nothing but contempt for the actual people they are supposed to represent.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Might just marginally be considered as putting a toe into the the land of the sweeping generalisation.

Andrew R
Andrew R
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Yes, I should be working my way through them one by one.

I think my statement (as a generalisation) still stands unless you have evidence contrary to it.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I think the op touched a nerve there.

starkbreath
starkbreath
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

FFS, where do you think the impetus for all the anti-Western, anti-democratic, anti-Enlightenment authoritarianism is coming from? The CCP is destroying the West without firing a shot.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew R

For the elected bodies, the one-time citizen has been reduced to being a subject. For the NGOs, he’s not even a consideration.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew R

I’m glad you wrote ‘almost’ – I feared you might have a somewhat extremist view about the rottenness of every possible aspect of UK society.

Andrew R
Andrew R
6 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

A very pessimistic one certainly

Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
6 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

Not society, the establishment.

Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew R

So true. So few seem to recognise western institutions are also now corrupt to the maggot-eaten, hollowed out core, just like Russia or China. We are sleepwalking into hell.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Just been watching the BBC’s docu-drama ‘Julius Caesar’.
I don’t think the current situation in GB politics is significantly different.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

Really! A more feeble BBC parable would be hard to imagine.Think’Caesar’ think ‘Trump’, what utter tosh!

Stewart, Holland, Wallace-Hadrill and Co should be ashamed that they ever participated in such arrant nonsense.

POSTED @ 19.26 GMT.

Last edited 6 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

That BBC document-drama is quite ludicrous. ‘Think Caesar think Trump’ indeed!

Holland, Stewart and Wallace-Hadrill should be ashamed that they collaborated with such blatant nonsense.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
6 months ago

This article should be a must read for all UK policymakers and legislators.

The UK is preparing to sign up to a pandemic treaty and amendments to international law which would empower the Chinese-appointed communist at the top of the WHO, who has proclaimed his adherence to the “One China” policy which denies Taiwanese statehood and who once saw fit to attempt to appoint Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador”, to impose extraordinary requirements on all of the UN’s member states. This could, potentially, include vaccine mandates, lockdowns, and all kinds of restrictions on basic human rights in the name of the “common good”.

Under this vile, inhumane, lying Chinese communist toady and alleged human rights abuser who lacks any relevant medical training but has a long track record of alleged corruption in politics, the WHO endorsed fraudulent PCR tests not fit for the purpose of diagnosis, inflated covid case numbers, spread dangerous disinformation and fear about the deadliness of the disease by deliberately conflating the case fatality rate (small denominator) with the infection fatality rate (large denominator), recommended the use of deadly mechanical ventilation on the basis of faulty Chinese advice, and spread lies that massively inflated the risk asymptomatic spread based on flimsy Chinese “studies”, and on the basis of those lies recommended the entirely ineffective, dehumanising and environmentally harmful mass use of billions of surgical face coverings amongst the healthy general public.

If anyone with any degree of influence and power happens to be reading this: it’s time to wake up and speak up now. It’s time to be an adult, time to put your petty loyalties to a party, or your career, or your perceived social standing, to one side and simply stop this from happening. You must do everything in your power to stop your country from signing up to the WHO’s treaty and amendments to the International Health Regulations in order to stop the transfer of sovereign powers to an organisation that has become utterly corrupted with Chinese (and major corporate) money, power and influence.

Believe me this could well all turn around one day soon, and do so very quickly indeed – so don’t think that taking the easy way out and saying nothing and going along with crowd now will keep you safe in the slightly longer run because it will not.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

The UK and anyone else should avoid that treaty even if Jesus Christ himself was at the head of the WHO. Bad ideas are not made good because of who administers them. Moreover, there cannot be anyone in a position of power who is unaware of what you wrote, which strongly suggests that they don’t care, that this is just a further power grab with some self-enrichment on the side.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

The WHO is a paper tiger. Any sovereign nation can raise the middle finger and refuse to follow any prescription anointed by the WHO.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Perhaps they can, but would they? A Starmer-led government would fall over itself to do what it is told and so absolve itself of any responsibility for making tough, potentially unpopular, decisions.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

What an embarrassment that man Cameron has turned out to be!

Angelique Todesco
Angelique Todesco
6 months ago

And yet welcomed back into government like some sort of saviour.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago

It is utterly bizarre that he was ennobled and brought back into government. Saviour he never was and nothing had changed.

Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago

Well, he was instrumental in facilitating Sunak career together with William Hague.
So it is payback time.

Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago

On the other hand, he might not care.
He made lot of money from brownnosing CCP.
Now as Foreign Secretary he has another chance to remind crooks and dictators that he is still available for hire after next election.

John Tyler
John Tyler
6 months ago

My heart dropped when he became Foreign Secretary.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
6 months ago

And yet our Government and Opposition support giving the WHO the right to imprison us in our homes.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago

I think if that ever came about, there’d be civil disobedience on a scale rarely witnessed in the UK, if ever.

John Riordan
John Riordan
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I’d have said the same in February 2020 if you’d asked me about the potential response to Covid19.

Last edited 6 months ago by John Riordan
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

But i really do think that “once bitten, twice shy” can be applied here.

John Riordan
John Riordan
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Given the stubborn bloatocracy of government since March 2020 that shows no sign of ever deflating back to the level that preceded it, I would say it’s more a case of once bitten, permanently infected.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

But it’s not the government we’re talking about, but the general population. If a majority went along with the original lockdowns, it was due to stepping into the unknown. A recurrence of that same “unknown” would be treated with a scepticism which no government could control, and no amount of limited law enforcement could cope with.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Look at the recent surveys, the majority would fall back into Lockdown tomorrow
We are a beaten Nation and ripe to become drones.

John Riordan
John Riordan
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The weird thing is that there remains popular support for lockdowns. It seems as insane to me as it clearly also does to you, but there it is.

The only thing keeping the political class from doing it again is that they know, with painful certainty, how colossally economically destructive it is. They are not remotely worried about how popular it would be, because it would indeed be popular.

Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Not likely.
British were happily complying with covid regulations without any serious enforcement from uk government.
Unlike countries like Australia and France, where enforcement was strict.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

It’s almost as if “hey, look; it’s China” is a straw man argument. Bamboo man?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

The UK or any sovereign nation can simply refuse a WHO order and there’s nothing it can do.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
6 months ago

Worth making a little note to remind that the parameters of the official UK Covid-19 enquiry were defined by Boris Johnson and his government not to explore the origins of the virus in China and look at how such Western governments interacted with the CCP and WHO to try and gauge what they were dealing with over winter 2019-20.

Caractacus Potts
Caractacus Potts
6 months ago

The greatest psyop in history has been allowed to flourish in this country. It’s owned by the Chinese state yet banned in its own country because its entire mission is to set populations against one another other. It’s meant to destroy civilisations yet we encourage our most impressionable members of society, our children, to soak it all up to whatever degree they like.
It is, of course, TikTok. And it’s the most effective propaganda tool ever created. It’s beaten the West due to the West’s own wilful ignorance. I hate it but you have to doff your cap to the Chinese government for the sheer success they’ve had with it.

John Riordan
John Riordan
6 months ago

The thing we need to recall here is that China owes it to nobody to occupy the subordinate position to the USA that the USA and many US allies would find convenient. China sees the prospect of becoming the global superpower in the 21st century, and will attempt this in due course. There is nothing sinister about this but as realities go, it’s a harsh one for the West.

Saying this doesn’t make me a China apologist: China has shamelessly thieved intellectual property from the West without which its ascendancy would not have been possible, it operates an espionage system so committed that it is hard to avoid the perception that we’re in a cold war, and as the above article reveals, China has no interest in abiding by diplomatic norms or having any respect for the open societies in the West which make its infiltration so easy.

I don’t wholly blame David Cameron for being the poster-boy for the key strategic error of believing that free markets would turn China into an open society. This wasn’t mere wishful thinking: prior to Xi’s internal takeover of the CCP and the militant surveillance by the Chinese State of its own people, it seemed perfectly possible that a newly wealthy Chinese middle class and civil society would emerge that would eventually make China a liberal nation. This failed to happen of course, but the people saying we ought to have known it wouldn’t happen are wrong: Xi Jinping had to make enormous changes to the Chinese State in order to create the conditions the rest of the world now faces, and it is entirely obvious that although those changes may well be in the interest of the Chinese government, they do not serve 1.4billion Chinese people particularly well at all.

I suspect that what Britain is now doing is a case of better late than never. Closing off the obvious security holes in our political, economic and civil infrastructure won’t be easy but it has to be done. The biggest danger in doing this isn’t military or diplomatic, it’s economic. The article above makes reference to unnamed corporate influence in tempering the government’s response to Chinese espionage, but this is a dangerously misled stance. The real problem with “de-risking” Chinese dependence is simply the catastrophic inflationary effects Britain would face if it really did lose access to exports from the Chinese industrial base. It’s been 30 years since the British government took the credit for taming the inflationary beast of the 1970s/1980s, but in fact that triumph was more to do with the re-entry of China to the global economy and the opportunity for western nations to access cheap manufactured goods and commodities. Anything that reverses that process would be economc armageddon for Britain and western nations in general. You might not like corporate influence in politics, but on this subject the corporations are on our side as well as their own.

Last edited 6 months ago by John Riordan
Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I strongly disagree with some arguments of your post.
For a start inflation in the West was tamed in the 80s.
So well before China became relevant in global economy.
The same goes for argument about transformation of Chinese society.
It was possible but very unlikely.
Then we need to remember that you don’t need competing ideologies to have wars between countries.
Just remember ww1.
World order arranged and dominated by China with help of dictators like Putin, Iran etc is clearly not in the West interest.
That is why I am amazed at all the praise given to Henry Kissinger.
He was the main culprit in raise of China together with Clinton.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

China, China, China. My, my; all this hand-wringing, yet in the US, we have credible stories of a sitting member of Congress carrying on with a Chinese spy, a now-dead Senator having employed another spy for decades, and of course, the compromised Biden clan. And this ignores Mr. Fauci’s funding gain of function research in Wuhan. All the noise and warnings give the appearance of action, but in reality, are little more than pointless activity that leads to nothing.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
6 months ago

Any mentoring event you go to at big London universities has beaming Chinese alumni, keen to mentor selected graduates. I’m told they are very specific about who they mentor.

If you’re in the position of having slept with an alumnus’ brother and hence, know the alumnus’s real name, then go and see what he has posted online about China’s territorial disputes with the Philippines, frictions with India etc . . . it’s very instructive.

Last edited 6 months ago by Dumetrius
Chipoko
Chipoko
6 months ago

Let it not be forgotten that Boris Johnson pushed very hard (thankfully without succeeding) for the Chinese telecoms company, Huawei, to install the 5G technology in the UK; this within weeks of his electoral victory in December 2019.Chinese students have been admitted in huge numbers into UK universities, many of them hardly able to understand English, written or spoken.This all happened during the Tory rule, commencing with Cameron’s (“Call me Dave!”) love affair with Beijing.!

j watson
j watson
6 months ago

We need Articles like this. We are awaking from our slumber but the enemy has a decade head-start. It even has it’s own Police stations in the UK!
Of course the dilemma for the Govt is there is an economic cost, and having spent 13years weakening our economy through ineptitude they are poorly positioned to now wean us fast and effectively off semi-dependence. Hence the gravitational pull will be to downplay the risk. That cannot happen.
Much of our debate about what might happen in any GE in 2024, or what might a Starmer Govt might do with the ‘hospital pass’ of an inheritance bequeathed by the Tories, (and especially the Brexit/ERG ‘no real plan loons’ who would have raced us even quicker into CCP arms) may seem quickly parochial if conflict breaks out in the South China Sea.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

We have been offshoring for a lot more than 13 years. This reference implies a difference in policy between the Conservatives and New Labour which does not exist.
Globalisation has been built on the supposed economic benefits of transferring production to lower cost producers (ie China). As we are beginning to see this has a seriously adverse effect on our national security as even basic industries like steel are offshored.
This is being exacerbated in the pursuit of Net Zero with the offshoring of our energy supplies and food production. Our consumption of natural gas and oil with the associated creation of CO2 continues but now supplies come half way round the world. We have seen the risks to Europe from a dependence on Russia but we seem oblivious to our own situational risks.
We need to rethink our global friendships. More so our neighbours in the EU need to be very careful in their direction of travel. It seems that, in their desire to differentiate themselves from the USA, they are increasing their relations with China and, even, Iran. This is extremely dangerous for liberal democracy. This is not a time for democratic countries to be chewing lumps out of each other. I would have hoped that the memories of autocratic control were still in Eastern Europe but I begin to wonder.
Liberal democracy is under threat from itself as much as it’s enemies.

j watson
j watson
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Carr

The approach of the CCP visibly changed in 2012 when Xi took control of both CCP and CMC. The approach prior to that was certainly not benign but it’s about then we got much better sight of what was happening. Yet we delayed responding. We didn’t want to believe it.
In this context some/many thought weakening our ties with the EU still wise and sensible. Xi will have been delighted. UK leadership in Europe was as much in Europe’s interest as ours and increasingly I strongly suspect would have come to pass.
I’m not convinced lib democracy as under threat from itself as much as from it’s enemies. Our enemies certainly look to support and enhance division though. We need to recognise that quicker.
US Republicans currently not seeing that Ukraine position inextricably linked to that of containing China because of what it might mean for how Europe reacts. US Politics, with an approaching election, distorting what’s prioritised. Xi and Putin will stoke that as much as poss.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

How about trying the occasional verb or article?

Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

There was never any uk leadership in Europe.
Just look at the treatment Cameron got from Europe prior to EU referendum.
The idea that Xi somehow changed general China approach to the West is nonsense.
Xi only became much more open and assertive about China strategic goals, whereas Deng was telling China to play nice and bide for time.
Your wet dreams about EU are just hilarious.
The clear and present danger to European democracy is the legal and political overreach of EU Commission.
We can see this in full flow when EU and Germany agent in Poland, Tusk, is suspending tv stations and sacking journalist against clear legal framework.
Strangely, EU has no problem with it but used judicial activism to punish PiS government for enforcing clear prerogatives of national government.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Carr

I can’t help but think that Biden is quite pally with Xi despite all the pantomime of strong worlds and Pelosi’s much photographed visit to Taiwan.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Carr

It often seems as if the people who scream loudest about the sanctity of democracy are the ones working the hardest to undermine it. There is ample evidence of that in the US.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
6 months ago

Great piece. It’s not just the Chinese. Russian penetration to the literal core of the UK government is no less concerning. It’s only the war in Ukraine that embarrassed Johnson enough to bring about a few degrees of separation. And no doubt because the Americans told him to. I’d very much like the author to explore that topic.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
6 months ago

Our political parties, our cultural institutions, our universities and our media, have all sought to benefit from a relationship with China – yet few seem to question what they expect in return.
We are not alone. For all the public protestations, most European states (including the UK) are completely in thrall to Chinese money. What price European solidarity? Well the Chinese know the price to undermine it and are more than willing to pay it.
The EU issued warnings against any member nation getting “gently ensnared” by BRI – China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the massive global infrastructure program that will trap signatories in unsustainable debt and thus give Beijing crushing leverage and influence over them.
For all the united face the EU (laughably) presents to the world: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia and Italy all signed up to the BRI, in the hope they may see some crumbs fall from Beijing’s table. Some are trying to back away – time will tell if they manage to.
But aside from the brute force approach of buying their way into controlling a country’s critical infrastructure, there is the more subtle and insidious element to the Chinese Govt’s reach and power. Political and business leaders who wish to benefit from a relationship with China know the best way, the only way, to achieve it, is to cosy up to the regime and speak and act on their behalf. Beijing have willing shills aplenty.
When News Corp was seeking to develop business interests in China, Rupert Murdoch knew he had to toe the line and so started undermining the toast of New York & Hollywood elite, the Dalai Lama. Murdoch did, admittedly, come up with a pretty good line, calling him “a political monk in Gucci slippers”.
Our universities, since deciding they were to be run as businesses rather than places of scholarship, need Chinese students and Chinese sponsorship – and thus any lecture or research that is critical of China is practically banned. China’s influence over Cambridge University is so deep that Madeline Grant over at the Telegraph rather amusingly asked “how long until Jesus College is renamed “Xi-sus”?”
China only allows 34 western-made films to be distributed there each year. Despite that, as of last year, the Chinese market officially overtook the US as the world’s largest box-office, all but guaranteeing that studios will continue to do everything they can to get access to that market. Any plotline or content that might offend the Chinese Govt is removed – or the studio loses the chance to put any of its films into their nearly 80 thousand screens. (The US, by comparison, has just over 40 000)
For the last 10 years at least, we’ve read in the Liberal western media the bleating about China’s (or Russia’s) unhealthy influence and designs on the West – But such pleadings are printed right alongside editorials that repeatedly refuse to support any Western counterweight to it. They recognise the danger but insist we cravenly appease them – just to avoid appearing belligerent – imagining that if we don’t poke the bear, or pull the dragon’s tail, then maybe they won’t eat us!! We’ve been on the menu for a while.
If you can influence our educational institutions, the media and the movies then you can tell whatever story you want. As ever, China plays the long game, and plays it well.

Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Great post. Only 2 upvotes?
OK, more it is a difference between upvotes and downvotes.

Liakoura
Liakoura
6 months ago

“Take the UFWD, which is one of the six main CCP departments. One of its formal responsibilities is to gather intelligence on the activities of what it calls “Overseas Chinese”, which mostly includes recent or temporary Chinese-born migrants in places including the UK.”

But rather than security matters, could it be to do with this?

“Over the past few years, China has stepped up the hunt for fugitives accused of corruption. From 2014 to the end of 2019, 7,242 fugitives were repatriated to China from more than 120 countries and regions, with 18.6 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) in illicit money being recovered, according to another CCDI statement.”

michael harris
michael harris
6 months ago

No mention in this piece of Mrs. Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s ‘Japanese’ wife.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
6 months ago

You write as though Western powers are not doing similar things.
The Great game is endless.
No doubt the Pharaoh had spies in the Hittite government.

Peter Hill
Peter Hill
6 months ago

Chinese on one side, islamists on the other

Jack Tuohy
Jack Tuohy
6 months ago

The activities of the United Front Work Department has been going on for many years and well before the subject of this essay. In September 2017, Anne-Marie Brady (professor of political science at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand) presented a conference paper Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping detailing the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to influence international opinion using New Zealand as a case study. It is lengthy but well worth the read for its similarity of CCP infiltration and espionage activities that have taken place over many years and continue across the Western world.
This is the abstract from the Journal of Democracy on the paper:
New Zealand is the target of a concerted foreign-influence campaign by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The campaign aims to further the political and economic agendas of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by coopting local elites, securing access to strategic information and resources, and manipulating public discourse. These CCP political influence activities, which in China fall under the rubric of “united front work,” have also frequently been a means of facilitating espionage. New Zealand appears to have been a test zone for many of China’s recent united front efforts—activities that not only threaten New Zealand’s sovereignty, but also are undermining the integrity of the New Zealand political system and the rights of ethnic-Chinese New Zealanders to the freedoms of speech, association, and religion.
This is a link to the paper on documentcloud:
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4053774-Magic-Weapons-China-s-political-influence

Last edited 6 months ago by Jack Tuohy
Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
6 months ago

The hidden network of deals and influencing explains a lot of what some amongst us naively call ‘errors of policy’. To illustrate this, I recommend the FT’s current podcast on the links between governments (especially UAE and Iran), cocaine businesses, assassinations and political influence in the Western democracies. Fascinating stuff. Google ‘FT Narcos’.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
6 months ago

For all those that are blantly Anti China
And the pie in the sky the perceived threat China poses economically
What a load of complete Coital Bovine Scatology
The very real threat is already fastidiously at work and it’s home grown
A fine example is HS 2 which has no Chinese input
But if it did have then it would have been completed and fully operational long before now all considerably below the
Eye watering costs to date
Furthermore work would be well underway extending HS 2 to Glasgow or
Edinburgh
And another fine example is opening up
As we speak and that’s the Stealth fighter project I.e.The Tempest as this aircraft is to be named
The Tempest even before a test flight made is already outdated as China making excellent strides in developing a Generation 6 Stealth fighter

The West laughed it’s head off when China 1st flew The J20 Stealth fighter
And using it’s so called cumbersome Airframe as the main reason Western F35,s would easily defeat it
Oh how wrong they were because those that laugh 1st usually end up laughing last and a few Months back America got
The fright of their live whilst a F35 in association with F22 Raptors flying thru The Taiwan straights 100,s of Km,s back from the F35
This is a well practiced tactic by USAF
The F35 being the lure and the Raptors
Moving in for the kill
Well then a Chinese J 20 out of nowhere
Despite US AWACS High in the sky above
The J20 suddenly appeared on the tail of
The F35 having done so W/O deploying
It’s own radar or locking of missiles, pulling up alongside and side flipping wings to show payload ( weapon bay opening briefly ) then the J20 suddenly
Swooped away soaring very fast and almost vertically without trace and The USAF not a clue as to where it came from
This has USAF airforce bewildered as to how this was achieved but acknowledge that it did so by way of a very advanced system of integrated radar ,AI computing , Satellites and ground control facilities
But one thing they do know now is as to why the Chinese J 20 Airframe was so heavy
This unlike the F35 and The proposed Tempest
Enables China to develop the J20 with more powerful engines ( ones that have thrust vector control ) add more and more sophisticated weapons ,radars and
AI integrated computing along with additional fuel pods
China’s next 6th generation fighter is already well under development and will
Completely alter Airborne warfare
As it incorporates more and more highly advanced technology which shall enable
It to operate at heights that no other can
Along with the most important feature of all and just as China did with J20
Their new fighter will with ease be able to accept and incorporate new technologies and updates to all other systems as time goes by . Just like their
Development of HS rail now cable of 386 Km/ HR constructed at phenomenal speed and low cost / Km than any Western Nation
Literally for The UK Now finds itself stood upon the platform as the train rapidly disappears out of sight
The UK Tempest is already a ‘ Dead Duck ‘
And a Hideously expensive one just like HS2
Their are many many more areas of vital economic affairs where China is leaving the field behind
A US think tank recently published a paper and shockingly found that in the areas of the highest economic development essential for future success of any economy that of the 10 Most vital areas that China had a lead in 7 of them and if current progress maintained ( China currently pouring more and more resources into all these areas ) then it is not a case of but when China gains supremacy in all areas
The West politically, societyly and economically now find that once they were the hare and China the tortoise
That indeed as technology leaps and bounds growing expodentially
Tis China that is not a Hare but akin to a prize racing Greyhound
And The West not the tortoise but a old
Worn out collapsing Elephant who,s days
Are now coming to a end
Sorry folks too late to wake up now
Accept and work cooperatively with China or be left To Wither and die in terms of Geopolitical matters of economics and Military

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Well said. Most people I have spoken to in the West still think that China is a cheap workshop making knock-off products at cut-prices.
They have not noticed that China is becoming No1 innovator. They registered more patents on solar panels than the rest of the world, I understand.
They have an advanced space-station – built because the US refused to let them participate in the ISS.
They’ve developed advanced chips because the US put sanctions on those.
They spotted the rise of EVs so long ago they dominate the battery market.
Ho Hum.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

They aren’t as smart as you think they are then. EVs are NOT the future, and if you care to check out the number of EV fires in China, it is ‘interesting’ to put it mildly.
The threat of China has always been the stupidity of our leaders. When Nixon first started to approach China I pointed out what I thought was the most pertinent fact and mistake we were making.
“China is in the business of politics, the West in the politics of business.”
OR probably put more memorably before I came up with that, though by whom remains a mystery.
“The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.”

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

Try researching the ‘quality’ of those patent applications.

https://www.iptechblog.com/2021/02/new-procedures-indicate-chinas-patent-system-is-now-focused-on-quality-not-quantity-of-patents/

Now, so they say, the quality is what they are after. IF they were so smart, they wouldn’t have built so many ghost cities and squandered billions.

They are a danger no doubt, but personally, the Net Zero/Woke cults of the West are more dangerous.

We’ll have so rotted the society of the West they won’t need vast amounts of any military hardware. A wind over 56mph shutting down are ‘windmill powered grid’ or no wind will manage the economic collapse.
The Ladies with b@ll5 and associated equipment will bring down society. China & the BRICS simply have to wait a few years IF both insanities continue.

A MacK
A MacK
2 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Doubtless Net zero/Woke cults are just that, but don’t forget that the CCP funds these and promotes them through TikTok (banned in China, natch) and the CCP makes/subsidises windmills and all those wonderful “green” power grid items too…
Trebles all round!

Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

But West does not need EVs.
For a start we don’t have national and local grid capacity for it or generating capacity.
We are committing economic suicide on the altar of moronic net zero.
Main problem for humanity is overpopulation in Muslim and African countries.
About 4 billion of useless people.
Devouring planet like locust.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

This sounds so much like the US Industrial Military Complex assessment of the Russian Military and Navy just before they asked for billions to combat them and yet another Russian sub blew itself up underwater.

I can’t remember where I read an article on the AUKUS deal, possibly Unherd, but in the article it was pointed out that the reason for the Chinese anger at Australia was they’d get the same tech as the UK/US had in submarine warfare.

The author pointed out how the US MIC always ‘puffed up’ the enemy to keep up the levels of investment. They also claimed that US/UK nuclear subs regularly shadowed unsuspecting Chinese ones, but the US MIC was forever claiming the Chinese were about to ‘leapfrog’ the best the US had.

It was forever thus, how many times were we told of the superiority of the modern Russian fighter bombers – where are they in Ukraine?

Or those “Modern” Russian tanks?

Or more specious still, Ukraine is winning!

As with Russia, much of what China has is ‘stolen’ – remember the Concordski?
You can’t believe much of what comes out of the US, never mind China.
Before COVID actually ended up in the accidental experimental Petri dish of the Diamond Princess, where ALL the world, had it bothered, could have seen it wasn’t the New Black Death, China had videos galore of people collapsing in the street. So called bodies everywhere and Hazmat teams collecting them. Next they tell us their COVID death toll was?
(according to worldometers web site)
5,272
As far as I am concerned, that is about as believable as their super stealth fighter achieving what you claim it achieved or Biden having nowt to do with his son’s money. Made in Ukraine.

Last edited 6 months ago by Bill Bailey
Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Vocous nonsense from China stooge.
Reality is if USA stopped oil and food supplies to China, China is gone within few months.
The J20 stealth fighter is based on stolen USA designs.
I accept that West is guilty of appeasing China.
The good starting point would be to expell Chinese students from Western Universities, unless they study gender and other woke subjects.
And clearing out Chinese stooges from business, politics, civil service and universities.
Obviously, it is not likely to happen.
But it does not mean that it would be desirable outcome.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Are you OK?

starkbreath
starkbreath
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Toady.