UK Invites China to Parts of Its Global AI Summit

Cleverly said the first major summit on AI safety has to include 'leading nations' like China amid concerns over the regime's spying and influence campaigns.
UK Invites China to Parts of Its Global AI Summit
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London on Sept. 17, 2023. (James Manning/PA)
Lily Zhou

China has been invited to attend the UK's global artificial intelligence (AI) summit in November, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly confirmed on Tuesday.

Defending the move, which has been likened to "letting the cat in with the canaries," Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said the invitation won't extend to "every single part of the summit."

The two-day event at Bletchley Park in early November will be the first major global summit on AI safety. Attendants reportedly will include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.

Downing Street has previously described the summit as an opportunity for “like-minded countries” to come together on the issue but later hinted China could be invited to the party.
Following criticisms of China's possible involvement, the government has tweaked the description of the summit, telling The Guardian it will bring together "key countries, as well as leading companies and researchers, and civil society, to drive targeted, rapid international action on the safe and responsible development of the technology.”

Confirming China's invitation on Tuesday, Mr. Cleverly said in a statement, “We cannot keep the UK public safe from the risks of AI if we exclude one of the leading nations in AI tech.

“That’s why China has been invited to our AI Safety Summit in November.

“The UK’s approach to China is to protect our institutions and infrastructure, align with partners, and engage where it is in the UK’s national interest.”

Asked if the invitation was sent to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Downing Street told reporters, “It will be for each country to decide who they think is the appropriate representative.”

The spokesman said he was “not aware of there being any difference” in the invitations sent to Beijing and the United States.

Pressed on whether China is considered a "like-minded” country, he said it had been "well established" that ministers "recognise that China is an authoritarian country and represents a significant challenge."

“And it’s right only to engage when it’s in the interest of the British public and I think that’s what you’re seeing us do here," he said, adding that the government is “clear-eyed” in its approach to Beijing and “wouldn’t do anything that was out of line with the strategy set out in the integrated review.”

Mr. Hunt later confirmed the report that China will be barred from parts of the event, telling POLITICO Tech, "We’re not going to invite China to every single part of the summit."
The confirmation came days after the government acknowledged the Chinese regime has tried to make spies out of former British officials, soldiers, and experts.
Officials including AI minister Jonathan Berry, head of Government Science and Engineering Profession Sir Patrick Vallance, and AI Foundation Model Taskforce chairman Ian Hogarth have supported the inclusion of China in the dialogue about how to regulate AI.

Expert: 'Democratic Nations' Should Talk First

Nathan Benaich, co-author of the State of AI report, told The Times of London that inviting "a hostile power that is currently suspected of organising a concerted effort to infiltrate our Parliament is a classic case of rewarding bad behaviour."

Mr. Benaich was referring to the recent revelation that a parliamentary researcher embedded among critics of the Chinese regime was arrested in March over suspicions that he may have been spying for China. The man, who has not been officially identified, said he is completely innocent.

“Democratic nations should focus on reaching a shared position on these critical questions before opening the door to a power whose interests lie in subverting this process. A country that uses AI to support the mass repression of ethnic and ethnic-religious minorities has nothing to teach us about safety and governance,” Mr. Benaich said.

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who's sanctioned by the Chinese regime for his vocal condemnation of the human rights abuses in Xinjiang, told the publication, “There is growing evidence that China is embracing a plan to create a process to bring AI and genomics together. They have the biggest investment in AI and the world’s largest genomics company. They intend to dominate this area. Bringing them in is like letting the cat in with the canaries.”

Hong Kong Legal System in Jeopardy

Meanwhile, Mr. Cleverly said "Hong Kong’s legal and judicial systems are at a critical juncture" in the foreword of a report published on Tuesday.

"As test cases proceed through the courts, new legal precedents are being established," he said. "Hong Kong’s courts remain independent, but they are having to adjudicate on an opaque [National Security Law (NSL)] that places the authority of the Chief Executive on security matters above that of their own."

The report said Hong Kong authorities have extended the application of the NSL "beyond genuine national security concerns," including trying to"suppress the song 'Glory to Hong Kong'" and targeting pro-democracy figures such as British citizen, media mogul Jimmy Lai and other dissidents.

The UK has previously said Beijing's imposition of NSL on Hong Kong was a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Responding to the report, Beijing accused the UK of planning to "disrupt Hong Kong" and said the alleged plans "are doomed to fail."

Lily Zhou is an Irish-based reporter focusing on UK news. Lily first joined the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times before turning her focus on the UK in 2020.
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