BOB SEELY MP: Ignore those who say we're too weak to stand-up to China

BOB SEELY MP: Ignore the naysayers who insist we’re too weak to stand up to China. We need the courage to get tough, just like Australia has

The 21st century will see a fierce struggle between two visions for humanity.

One embraces openness and democracy, the other authoritarianism and oppression.

Unless we want to live in a society where rulers are above the law and flagrantly exploit AI and big data to oppress their own populations, this is a battle we cannot lose.

This is why Chinese spying is serious. It is part of a much larger threat to our way of life. We know, from Chinese Communist Party (CCP) documents, that they wish to challenge and dominate Western democracy, rather than live in harmony with it.

And so the news that a parliamentary researcher, working within the Palace of Westminster, has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing, has left me and my fellow MPs shocked and appalled.

MP for the Isle of Wight Bob Seely (pictured) said the news that a parliamentary researcher has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing has left him shocked and appalled 

The Westminster Parliament is a symbol of our profoundly stable democracy. If the operative of a hostile state can access our distinguished chambers armed with nefarious intentions, that is a threat to our democracy.

Although the suspect’s name is widely available online, the Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has advised MPs not to name them. As frustrating as this is, there are good reasons for this informal embargo, and it is one that I — like this newspaper — am happy to accept out of respect for the Speaker. Furthermore, the individual has not been charged, and has issued a strong statement protesting their innocence.

Lessons must be learned from this scandal, and that means for MPs, too. So, now that we hear this warning shot loud and clear, how do we protect ourselves and our institutions for the battle ahead?

There are several China ‘interest groups’ in Parliament: the China Research Group, which I believe has seven members in the UK, and there is also the international Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), which I understand has 600 MPs across 32 counties.

In the past, Chinese and Soviet regimes have attempted to infiltrate organisations such as these in order to gain influence within political systems. They use them as fronts to discredit anyone holding them to account. Firstly, we must ensure that any attempts to exploit parliamentary groups is impossible.

Equally, MPs need to be mindful that we may be targeted ourselves. Nefarious agents typically seek to find vulnerabilities in MPs: Self-importance, ego and ambition can all be exploited so that MPs and other public servants, wittingly or unwittingly, become, in Lenin’s phrase, ‘useful idiots’. I sometimes receive emails that come from suspect sources, and which aim to develop relationships for what iniquitous purpose I don’t know.

Our Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden, was right to imply this week that much has changed since the early 2010s when David Cameron famously took President Xi Jinping for a pint in his local boozer.

Thankfully, we are getting tougher — Rishi is getting it right, but there is more to do.

MP Seely said ‘lessons must be learned from this scandal’ and MPs need to be mindful that they may be targeted 

We need to understand the threats that face us and resolutely counter them.

For example, China’s Confucius Institutes in the UK are widely thought to be used to spy on their students studying here. The centres are funded by the Chinese government, and supposedly promote its language and culture abroad. However, they are alleged to be Trojan Horses for spreading propaganda and censoring Chinese nationals. That is unacceptable.

Nor must these centres be allowed to intimidate brave Hong Kong activists who have sought sanctuary in our country. If these institutes can’t obey our rules, we should shut them down, like Sweden has.

Our universities must also be wise to Chinese students who come here to steal our ground-breaking research in science and technology.

Sadly, some seem utterly blasé about this threat, perhaps so blinded by their dislike of the Government, too consumed by political correctness and wokery, that they see a moral equivalence between imperfect dem-ocracy and authoritarianism.

However, by far the greatest danger we face is our economic dependence on China.

Every year, that dependency increases, and yet we seem unwilling to understand its significance, nor take measures to stop it. I have repeatedly asked the Government to make an annual ‘statement of trade dependency’ in order to enhance transparency. We still don’t have one.

The Government also needs to work with business to diversify supply chains, rather than having so much one-way traffic from Chinese ports. For example, we must do more to ensure that Chinese slave-labour products do not enter our marketplace.

MP Seely said the greatest danger the UK faces is it economic dependence on China 

Half the global supply of polysilicon — used in solar panels — comes from Xinjiang, where the ethnic Uyghur Muslims are widely imprisoned in indoctrination camps and forced into slave labour.

Further alleged atrocities against the Uyghur people include forced sterilisation and even murder. Many consider the actions of the CCP in Xinjiang to be genocide.

We also need to get real about exporting our own industry to China. We currently virtue-signal about lower domestic carbon emissions, all while exporting our manufacturing to China, which is building two coal-fired power stations a week to fulfil demand.

Coal-fire stations are the number one man-made driver of global warming. So the outcome of this naïve policy is that we enrich a regime which seeks to intimidate its opponents, while making the world a dirtier place and hastening climate change. This is simply doolally policymaking which might as well have been written by our adversaries.

If we fail to heed these warnings, how bad could it get?

A worst-case scenario will see us increasingly dependent on China just as President Xi orders the military invasion of Taiwan — he wants to be ready to take it back by 2027.

The U.S. being directly or indirectly engaged, we and other democracies will be asked to close our economies to Chinese imports. Would we refuse because the cost would collapse the global economy? If we did, the Western alliance will break, shattering the peace most of us have enjoyed since World War II.

Britain’s naysayers say we are too weak to oppose China and must simply allow the Communist Party to steal our intellectual property, collapse Western industries, build artificial islands in the South China Sea that threaten their neighbours, and ramp up espionage operations here.

What utter nonsense. Australia’s GDP is less than ours, their global influence weaker, and yet they are much tougher in their dealings with Beijing. They have, to put it bluntly, the political balls our Foreign Office lacks.

Indeed, the Huawei rebellion to stop China-dominated 5G-tech in the UK in 2020, led by myself and other wise colleagues, was not modelled on the U.S., but Australia.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in shutting off our nation against international competitors or adversaries — the more one disagrees, the more vital it is to talk and find common ground. However, having a backbone is a pre-requisite when dealing with a Communist regime.

Under President Xi, China seeks to dominate free nations. I hope that in the future he will be replaced by a leader who understands that the greatness of the Chinese nation rests on its ability to promote harmony, not drive an imperial, authoritarian project.

In the meantime, let’s be proud of who we are, stop talking ourselves down, and work with our allies to robustly defend our interests. It is also time for all MPs to work together to ensure we keep our Parliament safe by being the best we can.

In doing so, we’ll be strengthening our democracy, too.

Bob Seely is MP for the Isle of Wight. He sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee and is an expert in hybrid warfare.

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