Brexit Could Leave UK Open to ‘Interference’ From China

By John Smithies, Epoch Times
March 4, 2019 Updated: March 5, 2019

LONDON—The United Kingdom may be targeted by the Chinese communist regime following Brexit as part of a “divide and rule” strategy, a leading think tank has warned.

According to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the UK is a particularly attractive target for the Chinese regime because of its membership on the U.N. Security Council and its geopolitical standing. It’s also home to almost 100,000 Chinese students—more than the rest of Europe combined.

“The UK’s departure from the EU may increase the CCP’s desire to interfere, as it seeks to implement further a ‘divide and rule’ strategy, aimed at imposing its global vision and promoting its interests,” the think tank warned.

“Certain European countries, worried about Chinese investment, may resist unity,” a recent report from RUSI says, “but major allies remain concerned about interference,” adding that many fields rely on Chinese funding, making them reluctant to stand up to the Chinese regime.

It said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had a “need to ensure UK compliance with its aims” and had targeted the UK for “interference.”

“The Chinese Communist Party sees controlling the narrative about China abroad as important for reinforcing its legitimacy and justifying its monopoly on domestic power,” the report says. “It is also important for advancing its geopolitical aims.”

Xi Jinping and David Cameron
China’s leader Xi Jinping and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron drink a pint of beer during a state visit to the United Kingdom. Deals estimated to be worth £30 billion were agreed during the visit. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Post-Brexit, RUSI urged the UK to be “clear about what it is dealing with” when trading with other countries that may have financial ties to Beijing.

Lawmaker Geraint Davies, who recently spoke out on the likelihood of Chinese interference in the wake of Brexit, said the balance of power would shift after the UK leaves the EU.

“By removing ourselves from the EU, the EU is weaker, and, obviously, we’re weaker alone,” he told NTD.

The Union Kingdom flag flaps
The Union Kingdom flag flaps in the wind in front of the Great Clock atop the landmark Elizabeth Tower that houses Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament in central London on Sept. 26, 2014. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

“So the balance of power will shift very much in favor of powers like China, and people need to be clear about whether that’s what they want.

“This Chinese discussion is part of a wider discussion around Brexit, but it is crucially important for Britain’s future,” he said.

Brazen Interference

The RUSI report said Chinese interference is often difficult to detect but quite brazen, and encompasses fund for apparently independent think tanks and Confucius Institutes, which are embedded within local university campuses.

Other tactics used by Beijing include monitoring people who support the spiritual discipline, Falun Gong, which is heavily repressed in China.

RUSI cited one instance in Australia in which Chinese authorities were able to identify and threaten a student who had “merely been in the company of a friend who had signed a Falun Gong petition.”

Countering this interference requires finding a balance between “unproductive confrontation with Beijing” and “creating dangerous dependencies on economic benefits,” RUSI said.

It added that although the CCP may react negatively to publicity around its interference, it does tend to change its behavior.

“Its bluff should therefore be called, even if this causes short-term turbulence,” the report noted.

More concretely, the report said that the British government should map the extent to which the Chinese regime is already interfering in the UK. It also said that officials from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States should meet to discuss CCP interference.

“In the longer term, an insistence on non-interference will earn respect and ensure a healthier, more mutually beneficial relationship,” the report said.

Follow John on Twitter: @jdsmithies
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