Tags: unitedkingdom | china | espionage

UK Seeks to Boost Fight Against China's Intel Gathering

UK Seeks to Boost Fight Against China's Intel Gathering
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Monday, 03 May 2021 04:23 PM

The United Kingdom has started to bolster the scope and seriousness of its attempts to counter China’s massive state-backed effort to infiltrate British companies and research institutions in the race to develop key technologies, Politico reported on Monday.

“If we had been clearer as to whether China was really a win-win partner or actually all the time a very strong systemic competitor, we may have made fewer mistakes,” said Matthew Henderson, a former UK ambassador to China and now an associate fellow at the Council on Geostrategy. “They’re doing what they can do because we’ve made it so easy for them.”

He explained that the vast majority of the information gathering carried out by China in the U.K. “is done in open sight” at institutions such as R&D-intensive companies handling sensitive innovations.

Nigel Inkster, formerly at MI6 and currently a senior adviser on cybersecurity and China at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said  “the message is starting to percolate now that this is not just a problem that can be left to the intelligence and the security agencies.”

Part of  the U.K. efforts is  new legislation on combating hostile states that is due to be unveiled by the government next month.

Although not many details of the new law are available, it would require British nationals working for foreign countries to register their activities or risk a criminal conviction.

Backers of the new law say the existing Official Secrets Act is insufficient, because - in order to prosecute British agents not working for the civil service who help foreign states - the government currently has to prove that their disclosures have caused harm, which is a high legal bar.

Some China hawks in the U.K. Parliament want the new rules to be tough, with all British nationals working for other nations required to disclose those activities, with the possible exemption of U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, since they have signed pacts preventing them from spying on each other, according to Politico.

But other China hawks, such as Conservative MP Bob Seely, argue that treating friendly and hostile countries alike might damage Britain’s diplomatic relations.

The  Chinese government, meanwhile  is also strengthening its laws against spying with the introduction of new anti-espionage regulations permitting the all-powerful national security apparatus to mandate specific measures for firms and organizations that the authorities consider to be susceptible to foreign infiltration.

In this new regulation, China considers the U.K. a “high-risk” destination, with staff from Chinese companies requiring education ahead of foreign trips and de-briefing on their return.

In a rare speech last week, Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ, the U.K. communications intelligence agency, warned that Beijing  is the biggest threat for Western countries regarding cybersecurity and control of future digital technologies, saying "the concern is that China’s size and technological weight means that it has the potential to control the global operating system.”

Inkster added that “the sheer scale and size of Chinese collection efforts is unprecedented... The information we want to steal from China in this country is a lot less than the information that they want to steal from us.”

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, which is part of MI5, has warned  that foreign spies have used LinkedIn to target 10,000 officials in the Great Britain and abroad who have access to sensitive information, because these platforms make it easy for hostile intelligence agencies to identify and recruit nationals working in the areas they are interested in.

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The United Kingdom has started to bolster the scope and seriousness of its attempts to counter China's massive state-backed effort to infiltrate British companies and research institutions in the race to develop key technologies, Politico reported on Monday."If we had been...
unitedkingdom, china, espionage
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2021-23-03
Monday, 03 May 2021 04:23 PM
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