A growing cabinet split is developing over China’s role in the UK’s electric car supply chain as the government grapples with how to handle economic ties with the superpower, The independent can reveal.
Senior Tories fear the UK will ‘fall into a trap’ by handing sensitive aspects of its ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ over to a regime that threatens UK security.
MPs who have sought to raise these concerns have found that they are increasingly isolated, with the prime minister suggesting those fears are overblown, according to those familiar with the discussions.
Boris Johnson’s stance has become increasingly relaxed on Chinese investments in recent months, with some suggesting that this is in part due to the influence of his senior adviser, Dan Rosenfield.
A senior government source said that while doing business with China is essential, some areas are just too sensitive to allow trade or investment with the world’s second-largest economy.
They cited the recent purchase of semiconductor company Newport Wafer Fab – which produces technology for use in electric vehicles – as a “classic example” of China’s involvement in the British economy “unacceptable. “.
The ministers are also considering the participation of China General Nuclear, a Chinese state-owned electricity company, in the construction of a nuclear reactor for the Sizewell C plant. Some MPs believe that China should not play a role in the nuclear power plants. national critical infrastructure.
Other party and Cabinet members believe the UK should focus on securing more foreign investment and view trade relations as a force of influence on China. These divisions fueled disagreements among government ministers over the strength of language the UK should use to criticize China in the G7 statement.
Number 10 declined to comment on the split allegations, but the Newport deal is now subject to review by Sir Stephen Lovegrove, the Prime Minister’s national security adviser.
A senior Conservative official said: “There is a feeling that any investment is a good investment. That people are kind of hysterical if they are worried about the risks China poses to the number 10 country these days. “
“It is a country that we have publicly reprimanded for attacking sensitive technologies,” added another Conservative MP. “How are international allies supposed to take us seriously if we hand over to Beijing the keys to our green technological revolution?” ”
Earlier this month, the UK blamed China for attacks on Microsoft Exchange servers, with the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), a branch of UK security organization GCHQ, describing a ” ubiquitous pattern “of hacking by Chinese-sponsored attackers. State. The United States also condemned the attacks.
The Conservatives have a history of division over how to handle economic relations with China. A 2019 investigation into a leak at a National Security Council meeting discussing Chinese telecommunications company Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network led to the dismissal of Gavin Williamson.
Cyber attacks, allegations of genocide against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, and the increased military presence in the Taiwan Strait have all fueled conservative concerns about the ethical and security implications of Chinese investments.
Earlier this week, former NCSC chief Ciaran Martin said the £ 63million takeover of Newport Wafer Fab posed a greater threat to the UK than Huawei’s involvement in the 5G. The Welsh semiconductor maker has been acquired by Nexperia, a Dutch subsidiary of Chinese company Wingtech.
Newport Wafer Fab specializes in chips used in electric cars. Critics say that a global semiconductor shortage over the past year makes securing national capabilities for their development and manufacture even more imperative.
The shortage has been caused by a variety of issues ranging from coronavirus to droughts, and affecting everything from iPhones to the auto industry.
The planned takeover of Newport Wafer Fab is not the only major Chinese interest in UK production of electric cars. Envision AESC, a Chinese company, jointly made the recent £ 1 billion investment in Nissan’s Sunderland plant to manufacture electric vehicles.
Senior Tories said the measures reflected other similar Chinese investments in AI computing and posed a threat to the UK’s technological sovereignty.
One curator compared the Newport sale to one decried by the tech intelligence community when the Center for Integrated Photonics was purchased by Huawei in 2012. Although small at the time, the company had extremely valuable intellectual property. Photonics, the science and technology of light, can be used in a multitude of applications, from lasers and fiber optics to cameras and phone displays.
Lord Peter Ricketts, former national security adviser and interbank peer, said The independent that Newport was a “test case” for the government’s new National Security and Investment Act, which aims to strengthen its response capacity …
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This notice was published: 2021-07-28 14:10:35