Cambridge to End Partnership With Chinese Military Rocket Research Institute

Cambridge to End Partnership With Chinese Military Rocket Research Institute - The University of Cambridge is ending a partnership with a state-owned Chinese military research institute, according to documents published on Monday.

Cambridge to End Partnership With Chinese Military Rocket Research Institute

Cambridge to End Partnership With Chinese Military Rocket Research Institute

The University of Cambridge is ending a partnership with a state-owned Chinese military research institute, according to documents published on Monday.

Cambridge's Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) has collaborated with the Beijing Institute of Aerospace Control Devices (BIACD) on projects including smart building systems and smart manufacturing, according to documents obtained by charity UK-China Transparency (UKCT) under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

UKCT said its report on the partnership is the first part of a rolling project named Cambridge China Files.

BIACD is listed as a partner on CAPE's website along with British health care company Haleon and Chinese railway giant CRRC and telecommunication giant Huawei.

Two of the three BIACD personnel listed on CAPE's website have worked on military research, with one having worked at a high-level role in China’s military, UKCT found. Cambridge said none of them are based in the UK.

The university said the collaborations with BIACD have been with its civilian arm and on projects with civilian applications, and the UK government was involved in the due diligence checks back in 2013.

Cambridge also said it's ending the partnership on Sept. 30 following an internal review, and that it plans to return more than half of the £2 million funding from BIACD.

A FOI release (pdf) obtained by UKCT shows Cambridge received £2,090,000 from BIACD as its commitment to the CAPE Partnership since 2013.
According to the document, BIACD has sponsored "four research projects covering civilian applications of sensors, oscillators, and RFID [Radio Frequency Identification] technology."

Military Connection

BIACD is a research institute that develops military and civil technologies with applications including rockets, space stations, weapon systems, and oil exploration.

The name BIACD is an alias of the 13th Institute of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which is China's only producer of intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the company's website.

CASC provides drones, rockets, and guided bombs to the Chinese military and exports them to more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe, the website says.

CASC's predecessor, the fifth institute of the Ministry of National Defence, was set up in 1956 to develop China's first nuclear bomb, guided missile, and satellite.

A fact sheet published by the U.S. State Department listed BIACD as a communist Chinese military company.
In a due diligence report (pdf) obtained by UKCT, CAPE said the university was aware of BIACD's connection with CASC before entering the partnership in 2013.

According to the document, the UK Trade and Industry office (UKTI) in the British Embassy in Beijing sent a report stating that BIACD, which was called a different name at the time, had confirmed they had "both military and civil interests."

The institute said the split was roughly 60 percent and military and 40 percent civil. It also sought to assure the UKTI that their military and civil businesses were "completely independent with different technical and management teams" and that their business discussion with Cambridge was on "purely civil" projects, the UKTI said in their report in May 2013.

Two people from BIACD, Wei Wang and Yating Zhang, are currently listed on CAPE's website as members of its Steering Committee, with one more individual, Enyi Guan, listed as a researcher.

According to UKCT's report (pdf), Mr. Wang previously served "in a leadership role at CASC itself, and worked at a high level with China’s military, in the Inertial Technology Specialised Group of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) General Armaments Department."

Mr. Wang also served as a politician in the country’s rubber-stamp parliament for five years until earlier this year, the report said.

Mr. Guan has also worked on military research, UKCT said, adding that his limited number of publications suggests not all his work is open-source.

Partnership Ending

Cambridge had told UKCT that no BIACD staff is based at CAPE. In a letter (pdf) to UKCT, the CAPE office also said that all projects had been reviewed for export control compliance before approval and none of the research was on military or dual-use technologies.

In a statement emailed to The Epoch Times, CAPE said it had "sought government advice and review" before entering the partnership with BIACD in 2013.

"Their participation was reviewed by the UK Trade and Investment office in the UK embassy in Beijing before their membership was approved. The partnership was with the civilian arm and on projects with civilian applications," the statement reads.

"No new projects with BIACD have been initiated since 2018 and their membership of CAPE will end on [Sept. 30, 2023]. The university follows UK government advice and all projects with BIACD were reviewed for export control compliance before approval."

Training Programme

The UKCT report also said a Cambridge-affiliated charity has provided training to Chinese military companies' cadres including at least one CASC executive.

Xu Qiang, former executive director and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deputy secretary at CASC, attended the China Executive Leadership Programme (CELP) run by the Cambridge China Development Trust (CCDT) in 2016 when he was CASC's deputy executive, UKCT found after analysing open source information.

Cao Jianguo, who attended CELP in 2012, was a deputy executive of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). CASC and CASIC used to be the same company before they were split up in 1999.

Mr. Cao is now the director and CCP secretary of the Aero Engine Corporation of China (AECC).

AECC deputy executive and CCP member Chen Shaoyang took part in CELP in 2017, the report said.

The UKCT was able to identify another 2017 attendant of CELP, Zhang Dongchen, who was a deputy executive of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a state-owned communications and computer programming company that's a major contributor to China's military and online surveillance.

Mr. Zhang is now the director and CCP secretary of the state-owned China Satellite Network Group.

UKCT said the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), which was historically involved with the CELP, has refused to release the names of participants in response to an FOI request, but it was able to identify the four of the participants from "liminited sources" online including one name previously published by the FCDO and several photos published by the Chinese government that had name tags shown in them.

"Given that these limited sources have yielded four participants from China’s military-industrial complex in just two years, it is likely that many more such individuals have taken part in CELP over the programme’s nearly two decades of operation," UKCT said.

Cambridge told UKCT that CCDT is "an independent charity" and the university "has no role in its governance.”

The FCDO didn't respond to The Epoch Times' request for comment. According to The Times of London, a government spokesman said the FCDO had no records of engaging with CELP since 2019.

“We will not accept collaborations which compromise our national security," the spokesman said in a statement.

"We have made our systems to manage risks from academic collaborations more robust. This includes expanding the scope of the Academic Technology Approval Scheme to protect UK research from ever-changing global threats, and refusing applications where we have concerns."