China warning: Spy chiefs raise alarm over ‘game-changing’ threats: 'Stealing your tech'

MI5 director Ken McCallum and the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation boss Chris Wray met on Wednesday to deliver a joint address on China’s threat to the West. The pair warned that there is a growing threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party to both UK and US interests. Despite this, the MI5 Director-General stressed that the West should not completely cut off China as it is “central to global issues, economic growth, public health, climate change”.

But alarmingly, he warned that “hostile activity is taking place on UK soil right now”, adding that this is a “complex, enduring and pervasive danger”.

The spy chief noted that Chinese intelligence is “the most game-changing challenge we face” and uses a slow and patient approach to developing sources and gaining access to information.

In this case, he warned it is trying to take advantage of the UK’s “world-leading expertise, technology, research and commercial advantage”.

But despite warnings over China’s infiltration of British universities, Mr McCallum argued that “almost 150,000 Chinese students in the UK’s universities is, in almost all cases, good for them and good for us”.

This comes after Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party, warned that China is pouring investment into UK universities to “steal their technology” and “subvert them”.

He told in an exclusive interview: “We should stop the way they are pouring money into UK universities and their view of that is to get technology from these universities.

“And also knowing that many of the future establishments will be drawn from these institutions, they are trying to subvert them. This is all part of the game and everything they do revolves around that.”

Mr Wray, the FBI Director, also of raised the alarm over China’s intent to steal UK technology.

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He warned at the joint address that China is “set on stealing your technology, whatever it is that makes your industry tick, and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market.”

Mr McCallum agreed, and added: “The Chinese Communist Party is interested in our democratic, media and legal systems. Not to emulate them, sadly, but to use them for its gain.”

This also comes after a report co-authored by former Science Minister Lord Jo Johnson (Boris Johnson’s brother) raised the alarm over China and Russia forming a scientific collaborative axis.

In the new report for the Policy Institute at King’s College London and the Harvard Kennedy School, Lord Johnson wrote that the UK needs to “urgently” improve its step up the monitoring of its China ties, or else British universities “risk passively slipping into ill-informed policy extremes”.

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He urged UK universities to ”prepare for the worst by diversifying their academic partnerships and international student bodies to mitigate the risk of financial and strategic dependencies on potentially hostile autocratic countries”.

The report adds: “At one extreme, in which we become increasingly embroiled in a global circling of the wagons, with nations prioritising economic sovereignty over mutual interdependence, we may blindly adopt a needlessly risk-averse set of policies that cripple global science.

“At the other extreme, we sleepwalk into engaging in scientific collaboration with countries whose interests are fundamentally inimical to our own.”

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