Sunak promises crackdown in wake of China cyber attacks

Rishi Sunak is orchestrating a fresh initiative aimed at curbing the activities of Chinese entities within Britain in response to a series of cyber attacks linked to Beijing. However, allies of the Prime Minister have underscored the importance of ensuring any actions taken remain proportional.

During discussions in Parliament on Tuesday, Sunak highlighted that the measures already being undertaken against China by the UK are notably more robust compared to those of many allied nations. Government sources emphasized that any forthcoming measures will be meticulously crafted.

This development follows the recent revelation that Chinese hackers were responsible for two cyber campaigns targeting UK parliamentarians and the Electoral Commission. In response, the Foreign Office summoned the Chinese chargé d’affaires to deliver a message of unequivocal condemnation. Notably, Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister, suggested the possibility of placing China in an “enhanced tier” of countries posing a risk to Britain under the 2023 National Security Act.

Downing Street clarified that the foreign influence registration scheme established by the legislation aims to fortify the resilience of the UK’s political system against covert influence, without unduly affecting trade relations or investments with Chinese companies. The Prime Minister is keen to prevent unintended consequences and ensure that individuals associated with Chinese firms in the UK are not burdened with excessive regulatory requirements.

While some, like former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, have criticized the government for what they perceive as a tepid response to Chinese aggression, others advocate for a more balanced approach. Industry leaders have expressed concerns about the lack of clarity surrounding the government’s strategy, particularly given Britain’s reliance on Chinese imports for goods like white goods.

Sunak refrained from commenting on whether Britain would follow the US in pressuring Chinese-owned ByteDance to divest from TikTok over security concerns. However, he emphasized the robustness of existing regulations in the UK, including controls on sensitive technologies and the National Security Act.

In conclusion, while the UK is taking decisive steps to address cyber threats posed by China, there is a recognition of the need for a measured and strategic approach that safeguards national interests while maintaining diplomatic relations and trade ties.