Five Eyes in Talks to Reboot ‘Critical’ Group to Combat Dependence on China: Report

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 01: Chinese soldiers sit atop tanks as they drive in a parade to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, at Tiananmen Square on October 1, 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The UK is reportedly in talks with Five Eyes allies the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand about resurrecting the defunct ‘Critical Five’ group which would focus on tackling the West’s dependency on China in supply chains.

Critical Five was formed in 2012 to define the assets, networks, and facilities deemed as “critical infrastructure” for the alliance’s national security. It fell out of use in 2015 after they could not agree on the six key areas deemed most critical.

There have reportedly been “feverish discussions” to get the group to reform, with sources telling The Telegraph: “Clearly, everyone is panicked. They haven’t met for five years, but fears over supplies and our ability to secure ourselves have grown so great that the governments are resurrecting this historic body in order to tackle security together.

“Many in the Government with long memories remember the early work of the Critical Five and see it as an oven-ready structure to address this challenge on a multilateral basis.”

Politicians were already warning of the West’s dependency on China in its supply chains in the early months of the pandemic. It exposed the UK’s lack of preparedness when it found itself reliant on countries like China and Turkey for the delivery of crucial medical equipment which it could not produce to scale at home.

Sino-sceptic and former Tory Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith welcomed the report. However, he told The Telegraph on Wednesday that Critical Five “should have been sitting the whole time, it should have never stopped sitting in the first place, it should have been constantly on the game”.

Last week, Sir Iain called for an “alliance of the free world” to stand up to China, following increasing reports of abuse of the Uighur Muslim minority, the Falun Gong, and Hong Kong pro-democracy activists.

The Five Eyes are already reportedly working on a partnership to develop an alternative to Huawei, which the Pentagon says is run by the Chinese military. The BBC reported on Thursday that analysts had estimated Huawei to have become the biggest seller of mobile phones worldwide for the first time, beating out South Korean company Samsung.

Groupings being considered in the Huawei alternative development include the Five Eyes, as well as members of the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, and the U.S.) as well as other regional democracies India and South Korea. Japan is reportedly interested in joining the Five Eyes, which would be a first for the intelligence-sharing union currently comprised of solely Anglosphere nations.

The British government is also reportedly in talks with Samsung and Japan’s NEC, as well as considering state aid for British tech companies, to find alternatives to the Chinese state-run product.

Tensions between the United Kingdom and China have increased since the government announced it would ban all new purchases of Huawei 5G from 2021. Britain’s offer to extend British residency rights to Hong Kongers after the Communist superpower imposed harsh laws on the city that effectively banned dissent has also angered Beijing.

China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, claimed on Thursday that the British government had “seriously poisoned the atmosphere of China-UK relationships”.

“If you want to treat China as a hostile country, you will pay the price,” he threatened.

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