Charles Parton

Charles Parton is a former UK diplomat who spent 22 years working in China. He is an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and the Council on Geostrategy.

Could China spy on us through our electric cars?

Ulez currently may be Westminster’s favourite talking point, but sharper MPs and ministers are more concerned about the emissions from the front of your car than the back: data, lots and lots of it.   Buried in the electronic control unit of every new electric car is a cellular internet of things module (CIM). The CIM

Road rage: the great motorist rebellion has begun

38 min listen

This week: In his cover piece for the magazine Ross Clark writes about ‘the war on motorists’. He argues that the backlash against London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of Ulez is just the beginning, as motorists – and Labour MPs – prepare to revolt. He joins the podcast alongside Ben Clatworthy, transport correspondent at the Times, to

Why China won’t invade Taiwan

41 min listen

In much of the conversation surrounding China and Taiwan, the question of invasion seems to be a ‘when’ not an ‘if’. But is an invasion really so inevitable? No one knows for sure, of course, but there are good reasons to think that speculations of a war have been overblown. For one, the economic links

The next Chinese tech threat is already here

In recent years we’ve had fierce debates about the safety and security of Huawei, 5G, TikTok, semiconductors, ChatGPT and artificial intelligence. All of which may have given you technological indigestion. Let me add something even more threatening to the mix of the threat from China: the security of cellular (internet of things) modules.   Unlike the

Should Confucius Institutes be shut down?

30 min listen

Should Confucius Institutes be shut down? There are hundreds of these centres across six continents, funded by the Ministry of Education, with the stated goal of public education on and cultural promotion of China. They offer classes on language, history and culture of China, and some would say they help to plug a crucial shortage

Is Xi losing control of China’s zero Covid protests?

Tony Blair recently described the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s zero-Covid policy as ‘completely irrational’. He is completely wrong. Within the context of the CCP’s interests, it makes sense. ‘Completely political’ would have been nearer the mark, but not a bull’s eye. When Covid first appeared, the CCP got it right. Lockdowns and restrictions meant the

Don’t read too much into Hu Jintao’s disappearance

Since being helped out of the Great Hall of the People at the end of the 20th Party Congress, Hu Jintao has not been seen in public. Nor is he likely to be. Retired senior party officials rarely are. Apart from at congresses and big party or state occasions, such as the 100th anniversary of the founding

Rishi’s mad dash

47 min listen

In this week’s episode:Can Rishi catch up?Katy Balls and Kate Andrews discuss Rishi Sunak’s mad dash to catch up with his rival, Liz Truss in the polls (0.55)Also this week:Is it time the UK severed ties with Chinese-made tech?Charles Parton argues this in the magazine this week. He is joined by Dr Alexi Drew, a

The China threat our politicians don’t seem to have noticed

The Chinese Communist party can congratulate itself on another sign of its rise: for the first time it has become a factor in deciding the fate of British politics. During Monday’s televised leadership debates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak tried to appeal to Tory members by outdoing each other on their commitment to protect our

The day I was tapped up by Chinese intelligence

Nigel Inkster, a former director of MI6, has described China as an ‘intelligence state’. This was true even before the Chinese Communist party (CCP) passed laws that all individuals and organisations must help the security forces when asked. Chinese officials, party members and citizens have long been active across a broad front in advancing the

The truth about China’s genocide against the Uyghurs

Last night, the BBC showed witnesses giving stomach-turning testimony about organised rape and torture inflicted upon Uyghurs in China’s far west region of Xinjiang. Victims and former guards, now abroad and willing to talk, spoke of electric batons inserted into women’s genitalia, gang rape by police, an organised rape in front of 100 other women

How to counter China

When another country does something to upset the Chinese Communist party, it gets accused of ‘a Cold War mentality’. This is psychological projection, in Freudian terms, a defence mechanism which projects onto others the negative aspects of one’s own self. But the CCP is right in a way: we should have more of a ‘Cold

Cult of Mao: Will the Olympics punish China?

As one of the embassy drivers I met in Beijing saw it, ferrying diplomats to meetings was secondary to his responsibility of lecturing us on China’s true place in the world. A conversational bully, to Mr Wang listening was a sign of weakness. Crossing Tiananmen with its vast picture of Chairman Mao, I interrupted his flow

What China wants from Britain

What are we to do about China? To turn a phrase beloved by the Chinese Communist party (CCP) on its head, Beijing is increasingly ‘interfering in our internal affairs’. Yet if you hoped to answer that question by reading the recent integrated review of defence and foreign policy, the most you would find is that

How the West can avoid Beijing’s propaganda trap

This time next year the Winter Olympics will have drawn to a close. Beijing will have become the first city to have hosted both the summer and winter games. The Chinese Communist party’s (CCP) central propaganda department will have worked to ensure a gold medal performance in harnessing sport to bolster the party’s image (before

How the UK can help Hong Kong

Those of us who spent our formative China-watching years reading Chinese Communist party publications learnt early on that the word ‘basically’ was a synonym for ‘not’. ‘The party has basically succeeded in…’ meant that there was a problem. Hong Kong is basically an autonomous region. Xi Jinping is satirised by liberal Chinese as the ‘Accelerator-in-Chief’,

The US is right to rethink its relationship with China

Anyone who has worked in an office has fantasised about destroying it. As someone who has taken a sledgehammer to his office and fire to his papers – leaving the Libyan embassy in 2011 – I experienced a twinge of nostalgia on seeing Chinese diplomats burning papers after being given 72 hours to leave their

How Xi Jinping plans to crush Hong Kong

The Hong Kong government has recently extended its Covid regulations banning gatherings of more than eight people until 4 June. How convenient. Last year, according to organisers, 180,000 people gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on 4 June 1989. In future, being an organiser may well land you in court under a

Why we’ll regret the Huawei gamble

It is apparently fine for China to ban western technology from its telecommunications network but quite unacceptable for us to prioritise our national security. The decision to allow Huawei into the UK’s 5G network is the first of many tough choices in the new technological era. And we’ve flunked it. Why is it a new

Britain will regret doing business with Huawei

Imagine the following medieval conversation: King: “We need to build a castle at Dover. ‘Tis the key to England.” Courtier: “Sire, the French build excellent castles at fantastic prices. Of course, we should not allow them anywhere near the keep, but no harm if they construct the moat and curtain walls.” Returning to the 21st