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OPINION - Beijing’s huge scope goes beyond just spying

A parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing in March (PA)
A parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing in March (PA)

A Chinese (alleged) spy free to wander the corridors of Parliament will not come across many, if any, secret documents.

But this is not the sole aim of Beijing’s industrial-scale espionage and influencing mission. Its huge army of spies and other agents, many working on cyber, are hoovering up vast amounts of information.

It may not be high-grade facts and data. But the scale of it allows China to build up complex jigsaws of information which may give it a political, trade or military advantage over the West.

Beijing is also seeking to influence the thinking of key figures at Westminster, to shape the narrative, particularly to paint China in a better light.

“For a long time, we have been increasingly concerned about not just the scale of Chinese intelligence activity … but also the scope,” explains former MI6 boss Sir Alex Younger. “The scope is far broader than anything we would define as intelligence.

“It includes … influence, and the significance of influence. So undisclosed attempts to change the way in which people behave, I think, are underestimated within our system. It’s not something we’re familiar with. It’s fundamental to the way China operates.”