Rishi Sunak hires spies to help companies fend off Chinese technology threats

China poses an “epochal challenge” to Britain’s wealth and security, Rishi Sunak warned on Sunday as he revealed spies are being drafted to help companies thwart hacking attempts.

The prime minister dubbed Beijing the “top sovereign threat” to global economic stability, but said he would not slam trade or diplomatic ties with the country.

He appeared to distance himself from comments made during last summer’s Tory leadership contest, when he branded China the “most threatening threat” to the UK.

His remarks en route to a meeting with Joe Biden in San Diego came as the government intends to release a long-awaited “refresh” on Britain’s defense and security policy on Monday.

The 2021 Integrated Review update is expected to sharpen language towards China but not upgrade it from a “systemic competitor” to an outright “threat” as Liz Truss envisioned.

Mr. Sunak said, “China represents a country that has very different values ​​from ours. I think it presents us and the global order with an epochal challenge.

“It is a regime that is becoming increasingly authoritarian at home and more confident abroad with a desire to reshape the world order. We recognized it as the greatest government threat to our economic security.”

When asked if he would reiterate his claim that the country is a threat, he replied: “I don’t think it’s a smart or sophisticated foreign policy to downplay our ties with China, which after all is a country of one and one half a billion people, the second largest economy and a member of the UN Security Council, to use just two words.

“That is why you will see a very thoughtful and detailed approach to China in the Integrated Review. It’s right to look at the actions we’re taking to stand up for the things we care about.

“We must protect our security and our prosperity. Since I’ve been Prime Minister, there’s a handful of things that are quite substantive that we haven’t done in the past that we’re doing.

“So I am [acutely aware of] the challenge posed by China. It is absolutely right that we protect ourselves against this. Since I have been Prime Minister, we have taken very significant steps to achieve this. And we will continue to do so.”

Mr Sunak said the UK government had removed surveillance equipment linked to Chinese surveillance, ensured the country was not part of Britain’s nuclear power plans and blocked a Beijing-based company’s takeover of microchip maker Newport Wafer Fab.

He also announced on Sunday the creation of a new department within MI5, the National Protective Security Authority, which will provide UK businesses and other organizations with instant access to expert security advice.

The move comes amid growing concerns about state-sponsored hacking of China targeting Western companies and stealing intellectual property, particularly from companies in sensitive sectors linked to areas like defense.

The prime minister’s softer stance is likely to anger China-hawks within the Tory party, who supported Ms Truss’ intention to take a harder line on relations with the country.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory leader sanctioned by Beijing, said the Integrated Review risks being a “wasted opportunity” to take on President Xi Jinping and warned “if we don’t show strength, we will.” they don’t respect us”.

Downing Street performed a crowd-pleasing about-face on Sunday, with reports it is poised to ban ministers and officials from installing Chinese social media platform TikTok on their government phones.

Conservative MPs had urged No. 10 to follow in the footsteps of the US and EU by blocking use of the app over security fears that Beijing could use it to collect sensitive data from users.

TikTok has insisted that all Western users’ data is stored securely in the US, Singapore and Europe and that “the Chinese government cannot compel other sovereign nations to share data stored on their sovereign territory”.

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