THE news that a former Rolls-Royce engineer has been held on suspicion of spying for China on Britain’s new stealth fighter sounds like the stuff of the Cold War.
But to those of us who know the country well, if true, it would come as little surprise.
Getty – Contributor The success of China’s economy could be a result of the foreign development aid and investment it has received, writes Dr John Hemmings
We are already in the midst of a new Cold War, but one that takes place quietly yet systematically all around us. China has risen from its economic and technological doldrums of the late 20th century with dizzying speed and is now steaming ahead on course to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy.
And the fear is that, to achieve this, it is buying, bribing, investing in or simply nicking any and all the clever ideas it needs from the West. While China’s success offers opportunities for us in terms of trade, it is also a threat as they seem to want to plunder our research and development for intellectual property (IP), important both to our national security and our jobs.
GCHQ estimates that China has an army of 30,000 experts spying on foreign companies, with more than 60 per cent of the FTSE compromised by Chinese intelligence. The costs are significant. According to a US study, China’s theft of American IP costs jobs and between $225billion and $600billion (£170billion and £450billion) annually. We don’t know how much they might have cost Britain, because we haven’t done the numbers.
How did we get here? How did China go from a wrecked agricultural, heavy-industry Marxist economy in the late Seventies to the powerhouse it is today? It was a mixture of hard work and opening up to the world, through the reforms of leader Deng Xiaoping. But it was also down to a lot of foreign development aid and investment, principally from the US, but also from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and the EU.
Getty – Contributor There could be more than 30,000 Chinese spies within foreign companies across the globe
Business was good as trillions of dollars flowed into an economy just recovering from the Cultural Revolution. But behind the business handshakes and shiny new projects, China’s military leaders were planning how they could catch up with the West and surpass it. And it all began in Iraq, oddly enough. Those who remember the first Iraq War of 1991 will recall how worried Western leaders were sending troops into Iraq.
After all, it had one of the largest armies in the world, equipped and trained by the Soviet Union. Indeed, many watched the war to see who would win as a test-case of technology. But US and coalition forces demolished the Iraq military within six weeks, using laser-guided bombs and missiles with other computer-led technologies.
And in Beijing, there was stone-cold shock as they watched Iraq’s army — one nearly identical in training, doctrine and equipment to its own — melt away. In a bid to understand how the Iraqis could lose so badly, Chinese military colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, wrote the book Unrestricted Warfare, which decided how China would attempt to fight such high-tech weapons — and how they should steal those same technologies.
Then a Congressional study in the US alleged that the Chinese government was attempting to buy American military firms specialising in these technologies using fake “zombie” companies: Old US firms that had gone broke and been bought as “fronts”. The Cox Report, as it was known, made little impact on the pro-China approach adopted by the Bill Clinton administration of the time.
China’s economy is predicted to surpass that of the US
For many, the 1990s and 2000s were about doing business, not talking about spying between old Cold War enemies.The September 11 attacks only made that trend stronger as Islamic terrorism became the West’s primary adversary. In the meantime, government-backed Chinese students began flooding into British, Canadian and US research universities, picking up as much knowledge as they could on aerospace engineering and information technologies.
China has also established investment consortiums to go into high-tech hubs in Cambridge and Shoreditch and hoover up British start-ups before they even reach the open market. Its huge road, rail and seaport initiative, One Belt One Road, is an extraordinary bid to create routes better connecting China to the rest of world, with a potential price tag exceeding £6TRILLION. Their ambition apparently knows no bounds.
China is already on course to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy in 2029. Many analysts believe they are seeking to emulate the British Empire in terms of power and influence.
Despite the many business groups that lobby on behalf of China in Britain, the May government has sought to slowly restrict sensitive sectors of Chinese investment. Last year, think tank the Henry Jackson Society published a report on Chinese investment into sensitive parts of UK infrastructure, noting how Germany, Australia, Canada and the US were beginning to restrict Chinese investment in parts of their economies.