The UK’s global artificial intelligence (AI) summit in November will include China, according to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt defended the decision, stating that China’s involvement would not extend to every part of the summit. The two-day event, set to take place at Bletchley Park, will be the first major global summit on AI safety. Attendees will reportedly include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, US Vice President Kamala Harris, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
In response to criticisms of China’s participation, the government has adjusted the summit’s description, stating that it will bring together key countries, leading companies and researchers, and civil society to promote safe and responsible development of AI technology. Cleverly confirmed China’s invitation, stating that excluding one of the leading AI tech nations would hinder the UK’s efforts to ensure public AI safety. He emphasized that the UK’s approach to China is focused on protecting its institutions and infrastructure, aligning with partners, and engaging in the national interest.
When asked about the invitation’s recipient, Downing Street explained that each country would decide its appropriate representative. They also stated that there was no difference in the invitations sent to Beijing and the United States. However, China will not be invited to every part of the event, as confirmed by Hunt. The decision comes after the government acknowledged China’s attempted recruitment of former British officials, soldiers, and experts as spies.
Notably, some officials, including AI Minister Jonathan Berry, Sir Patrick Vallance, and Ian Hogarth, have expressed support for China’s inclusion in discussions about AI regulation. However, experts like Nathan Benaich argue that inviting a hostile power like China rewards bad behavior. He points out the recent arrest of a parliamentary researcher suspected of spying for China and argues that democratic nations should first reach a shared position on critical questions before engaging with China.
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who has been sanctioned by China for his condemnation of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, compared inviting China to letting the cat in with the canaries. Meanwhile, Cleverly stated that Hong Kong’s legal and judicial systems are at a critical juncture in a report released on Tuesday. He highlighted the challenges faced by the Hong Kong courts and how they are being influenced by the National Security Law (NSL), which prioritizes the authority of the Chief Executive in security matters. The report also mentioned that the UK views China’s imposition of the NSL as a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
In response, Beijing accused the UK of planning to disrupt Hong Kong and stated that such plans are doomed to fail.