top of page

Is this British company arming China? – article by David Rose for UnHerd – 26.08.22

Western technology is being unwittingly weaponised

By all accounts, the visit by the delegation of leading Chinese businessmen was a resounding success. Hidden away in sleepy Shropshire, Grainger and Worrall is a world-leader in the precision casting business. It prides itself on turning molten metal into complex components used in wind turbines, racing car engines, and speedboats.

But not all its products are so benign. The firm also makes key parts for military drones, vehicles, and artillery; its website is illustrated with photos of RAF helicopters, Royal Navy destroyers and Army tanks. And it’s with these products in mind that the team from the China North Industries Corporation, a Chinese manufacturing giant usually known as Norinco, paid a visit in 2015.

The Norinco team, led by Wang Yulin, president of its Development Academy of Machinery and Equipment, and Xiaoqing Cheng, the general legal adviser to its Vehicle Research Unit, were evidently impressed. “They are a large industrial company with 300,000 employees that covers planes, trains and automobiles,” Charlie Bamber, G&W’s business development manager for Asia, later told the Shropshire Star. “There’s no limit to the opportunity.”

Among the possibilities was a “joint venture” — the building of a “mass production entity” that would use G&W’s technology in China. Such a factory, Bamber continued, “can’t be in Shropshire, but parts leading up to it can. It’s clearly an opportunity for the county”.

Yet a crucial detail was left out from his statement. Namely, that the Chinese characters that make up Norinco’s name in Mandarin — 中国兵器工业集团公司 — do not mean “China North Industries Corporation” in English, as the firm implies. What they really stand for is: “China Arms Industry Group Co. Ltd”.

Even so, G&W could not plead ignorance. It is well-reported that Norinco, owned by the Chinese state, is the biggest weapons manufacturer in China, producing tanks, grenade launchers, shells, rotary cannons, drones, missiles and strike aircraft. In 2003, George W. Bush sanctioned the company for selling ballistic missile technology to Iran. It has since been blacklisted in America because of its close relationship with the People’s Liberation Army, following executive orders issued by Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

One might think, then, that G&W would have something to say about its partner’s dubious reputation. Yet when I enquired about its Chinese business, which has grown significantly since 2015, it refused to answer any of my questions, beyond issuing a blanket statement insisting that it had done nothing wrong and always obtained UK government approval.

On a brief phone call, Bamber suggested I was xenophobic for even questioning its relationship with Norinco. “I think you’re probably aligning yourself with many people who are extremely racist,” he said. “You’re fabricating a scenario which doesn’t actually exist.”

In all fairness, G&W’s dealings with Norinco began in the so-called “Golden Age” of Anglo-Chinese relations under David Cameron and George Osborne, when far from being seen as a possible threat, China was promoted by the British government as a rich and generous benefactor.

Since then, however, the political atmosphere has soured dramatically. Hong Kong’s freedoms have been crushed, the Uyghurs have been subject to genocide and China has threatened to invade Taiwan. Fears over China’s acquisition of advanced Western technology have reached an all-time high, as MI5’s Director General Ken McCallum and FBI Director Chris Wray warned in their joint address in London last month.

During their press conference, McCullum pointed out that China doesn’t even need to resort to “clandestine espionage methodology” to get its hands on the West’s technological secrets. British businesses and academic institutions are giving IP away in plain sight, under the guise of seemingly innocent commercial deals or academic partnerships.

In recent months, Britain’s politicians have also woken up to such dangers. The National Security Bill — currently going through parliament — would grant further powers to the British government to “combat state threats not just to national secrets but to your intellectual property, your commercial edge, your unique research”.

Yet the proposed new law will not be retrospective: intellectual property that has already been shared cannot be taken back. This means the near-decade that G&W has spent working with Norinco is unlikely to come under scrutiny.

For the full article in pdf, please click here:

Is this British company arming China – article by David Rose for UnHerd – 26.08.22
Download PDF • 203KB

David Rose is an investigative journalist and author. He is currently Politics and Investigations editor at the Jewish Chronicle.

"Dual use", apparently (Naohiko Hatta - Pool/Getty Images)

19 views0 comments


bottom of page