China Invited To UK AI Summit Despite Commons Spy Row

Foreign secretary James Cleverly risks Tory backlash by insisting Beijing should be represented at the event.
Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak has decided to invite China to a major London summit despite the Commons spy row.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly today confirmed that the Chinese government has been asked to send representatives to the artificial intelligence conference in November.

The decision is likely to provoke a furious backlash from Tory MPs who want the government to take a harder line on Beijing.

The prime minister's decision comes after it emerged last week that a Tory parliamentary researcher was arrested earlier this year on suspicion of spying for Beijing. He has denied the allegations.

Some Conservative backbenchers have demanded Sunak take a tougher line towards China and for it to be formally categorised as a "threat" to the UK.

Sunak has stopped short of this, going only so far as to describe China as an "epoch-defining challenge”.

And on Tuesday afternoon James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, confirmed China would be welcome at the meeting.

“We cannot keep the UK public safe from the risks of Al if we exclude one of the leading nations in Al tech,” he said.

“That’s why China has been invited to our Al 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.”

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith last week told the Daily Mail last week China should be excluded as it was not part of the “free world”.

“They are a threat and until we wake up to that threat, engaging with them only makes us look weak,” he said.

The AI summit will take place at Bletchley Park, home of Britain’s top-secret codebreaking efforts during WWII.


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