Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 14 July 2023



David Cameron’s appointment to investment fund ‘part engineered by China’

The hiring of former PM and Treasury chief was to lend credibility to broader Beijing brand, intelligence watchdog told

David Cameron’s appointment as vice-chair of the £1bn China-UK investment fund and Sir Danny Alexander’s appointment as vice-president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank were in part engineered by the Chinese state, parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) found.

Their appointment was to lend credibility to Chinese investment as well as the broader Chinese brand, according to confidential evidence given to the intelligence watchdog.

Both Cameron as prime minister and Alexander as Treasury chief secretary were at the heart of the plan to usher in a golden age in Anglo-Chinese relations, the committee said.

That decision was chastised by the watchdog as a complete misreading of the Chinese government’s determination to invest in the UK to gain global technological dominance for the Chinese Communist party. The ISC found the UK’s response to the Chinese threat as inadequate, adding that China had penetrated deep into the UK economy.

Alexander remains vice-president of policy and strategy of the AIIB. But Cameron’s plan for the investment bank largely foundered after relations between London and Beijing deteriorated rapidly due to the suppression of democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Lord Patten, the former Conservative party chair, told the committee: “I think they [China] probably think we are not entirely reliable useful idiots … I think they regard us as an economic opportunity and as an opportunity to, through elite capture, through the cultivation of useful idiots, through playing on things like the ‘golden age’ of British-China relations, getting us by and large corralled into doing the sort of things they would like us to do.”

Bob Pickard, the global communications chief of the AIIB, caused a sensation in June after quitting his job, saying on Twitter: “The bank is dominated by Communist party members and also has one of the most toxic cultures imaginable. I don’t believe that my country’s interests are served by its AIIB membership.”

He added: “Happy to be gone from that cesspool. The Communist party hacks hold the cards at the bank. They deal with some board members as useful idiots. I believe that my government should not be a member of this PRC [Chinese] instrument. The reality of power in the bank is that it’s CCP from start to finish.”

The Canadian government suspended its ties with the bank after his resignation.

The AIIB said it had accepted Pickard’s resignation and called his comments “baseless and disappointing”.

Headquartered in Beijing, the bank was established by general secretary Xi Jinping to act as a Chinese alternative to the World Bank and other western-led multilateral lending institutions.

The UK – in the teeth of opposition from Washington – played a big part in its creation. The then chancellor, George Osborne, announced in 2015 that the UK would seek to join the AIIB, and later that year the UK became the first country outside Asia and the first G7 member to ratify the articles of agreement of the AIIB.

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