Chinese state intelligence targets the UK “prolifically and aggressively” in a way that poses a “challenge” for British intelligence agencies, Parliament’s spy agency watchdog has said.
A new and wide-ranging report by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is critical of the UK Government’s response to the threat posed by China, questioning the trade-off between economic interest and security concerns.
It also raises concerns about Chinese influence in UK universities and the country’s intention to become a “permanent and significant player” in the civil nuclear energy industry.
The report, published on Thursday, said the UK is of “significant interest to China when it comes to espionage and interference”, placing the country “just below China’s top priority targets”.
It said: “China’s state intelligence apparatus – almost certainly the largest in the world with hundreds of thousands of civil intelligence officers…. targets the UK and its interests prolifically and aggressively, and presents a challenge for our Agencies to cover.”
Chaired by Conservative MP Sir Julian Lewis, the nine-member committee scrutinises the work of the UK’s intelligence agencies including MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
Its reports are approved by the Prime Minister before release.
The latest report comes amid ongoing tensions between the West and the rising Asian power.
The Government has characterised the growing influence of China as an “epoch-defining challenge” but some backbench MPs have pushed for a more hawkish approach to Beijing.