Russia and China have been accused of “exploiting” the technology in a war against the free world as the two nations try to force Britain to become “a rule taker rather than a rule maker”.
A Foreign Affairs Committee report today warns that foreign powers are “exploiting technological developments to further their geopolitical agendas”, risking Britain being left behind.
The Commons cross-party committee argues that “critical technologies that underpin our daily lives are increasingly important as the arena for systemic competition between nation-states.”
Liam Byrne MP, a Labor member of the committee, said: “What we need to do is make sure that Britain is not the weak link in the defenses of the Western alliance.
“China is building a digital Silk Road around the world. And there are very real concerns about how China will leak data and technology to provide the power its leadership seeks by 2030.”
The committee report also urges the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to “fundamentally re-evaluate” the ways it works with Britain’s allies to prevent hostile foreign powers from stealing British expertise and intellectual property for their own. purposes.
“Failure to adapt will have devastating consequences for our security, prosperity and global influence,” he said.
Unless Britain steps up and beefs up the Foreign Office to help protect British industry and strategic interests, the committee says, there is a serious risk that Britain will become another candidate in the vital area. of international standards and norms.
The warning from the Foreign Affairs committee follows an unprecedented joint statement earlier this week by the heads of MI5 and the FBI. They warned that China is trying to “establish standards and norms that will allow it to dominate the international order.”
Ken McCallum, director general of the Security Service, said Wednesday: “Clandestine espionage methodology is not always necessary. Take for example the story of Smith’s Harlow, a UK-based precision engineering company.”
Chinese company Futures Aerospace approached Smiths in 2017 about a possible merger. However, after completing an initial £3m technology transfer and training deal, the Chinese pulled out, leaving Smith’s shell to collapse in management in early 2020.
Research by the Carnegie Endowment, a US think tank, found in December that US companies felt “threatened by the way China is mobilizing around standard setting.”
China’s ruling Communist Party has made its intentions clear by releasing a strategy titled China Standards 2035. It calls for China to influence future global industrial standards for technologies such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, a term used for sensors in everything from shipping containers to wind farms.
Meanwhile, China’s industrial advantage has accelerated it away from the West. Huawei, for example, holds more than 6,000 patents on technology used in 5G mobile phones. The Shenzhen-based company has begun using Western courts to enforce its intellectual property rights, settling a high-profile US patent infringement lawsuit against mobile network Verizon last year.
Huawei has faced accusations for decades that its core computer networking equipment business was based on stolen intellectual property. Cisco Systems General Counsel Mark Chandler accused Huawei executive Charles Ding in 2012 of trying to cover up a corporate admission that he had illegally copied Cisco source code into one of its product lines.
Meanwhile, commentators who stand up to China have begun to warn that the West faces being left behind as state-run companies seek greater control over global standards.
“Companies must be prepared to face market share losses and become increasingly reliant on Chinese digital solutions,” Shawn Kim, senior analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote in 2021 for the South China Morning Post.
The FCDO has been contacted for comment.