UK continued hyping of 'China spies' farce exposed Sunak admin's weakness
Published: Sep 17, 2023 08:10 PM
China UK Photo: VCG

China UK Photo: VCG

The UK is reportedly mulling over banning Chinese officials from participating in half of the upcoming AI summit, as London's self-staged "China spies" farce continues to simmer. Chinese experts condemned the British government's attempt to play up the drama as not only shooting itself in the foot, but exposing that the British government is bowing to the parliament's China hawks. 

Such traits of the incumbent UK government make it difficult for China to take it seriously, a trend that will further sabotage Beijing's ties with London, experts warned.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering banning Chinese officials from half of his artificial intelligence safety summit in November, the Guardian quoted sources as saying on Saturday.

It said that Downing Street has already invited China to attend the summit, which will be held in early November at Bletchley Park. Yet the invitation has attracted some criticism after a "China spies" farce staged by the UK. Sources told the Guardian that Chinese officials might only be allowed to attend the first day of the two-day summit.

UK media reported that Sunak is expected to use this summit to attempt to position the UK at the forefront of global AI regulation.

If the UK announces such a "discriminative restriction" on China's attendance at the AI summit, China could react by refusing to participate, Cui Hongjian, a professor at Academy of Regional and Global Governance under the Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

He noted that the summit will lose its allure if China, one of the global AI bellwethers, does not show up, and he said the UK would be shooting itself in the foot by doing what the media had reported. 

Some Chinese companies or participants may also choose to shun the summit, as they would fear for their safety as UK keeps hyping the issues of "China spies," Li Guanjie, a research fellow from the Shanghai Academy of Global Governance and Area Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

In an exclusive poll for The Mail on Sunday, more respondents said China should be invited to the UK government's AI summit Park than those who opposed the idea.

Despite China's criticism and warning, the UK has not backed down on hyping the farce. 

In response to the UK parliament's discussion of "China spies," a spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in the UK said on Friday that "the allegations of the so-called Chinese spies hyped up by the UK side are a self-staged farce that is totally groundless. We have made a serious démarche to the UK side and we strongly condemn it." 

The spokesperson continued to say it shows that some British politicians have reached a point of hysteria and how egregious they have become when it comes to China. Their baseless slanders and accusations against China seem more of a cover-up of their own incompetence and failure in solving the UK's own political, economic and social problems and are aimed at deflecting the attention of the public.

Cui said that the "China spies" hype in the UK exposes the weakness of Sunak and his administration, which have bowed to China hawks' pressure in UK parliament, as well as their declining governance ability, which renders it difficult for China to take any political signs from the UK seriously.

Before the spy allegations, James Cleverly, secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs of the UK, visited China in August, where he said that "we are clear-eyed about the areas where we have fundamental disagreements with China and we raise those issues when we meet … But I think it's important to also recognize that we have to have a pragmatic, sensible working relationship with China because of the issues that affect us all around the globe."

Cui asked: How can China and the UK establish pragmatic, sensible relation if the US is making groundless allegations and uses those allegations to bar China from participating in events that UK hosts?

If Sunak thinks about the benefits of the UK as a whole, instead of focusing on the interests of his party, he should stand up bravely against the China hawks and let them understand the benefits of pragmatic cooperation with China, Cui said.

Li noted that the UK's continued playing up of the spying allegations will damage relations with China, and the ball is in the UK court now to cut the losses in time.