The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs’ investigation is still going on, even though Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden intervened to delay the takeover of the meeting room, which is scheduled to take place at a meeting on Tuesday.
The episode highlights the growing mistrust of Chinese business investment in the UK, partly in the wake of Chinese management of the coronavirus epidemic.
Tuesday’s board meeting, prior to its cancellation, was to appoint four board members linked to China Reform Holding, a $ 30 billion Chinese government-controlled venture capital fund.
The Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Tom Tugendhat, wrote to the president of Imagination Technologies, Ray Bingham, to ask him what assurances had been given to his company when China Reform Holding took over the company in 2017, and said he was aware of any plans to relocate parts of the business or intellectual property abroad.
Company director Ron Black, appointed two years ago, resigned earlier this week and complained in a letter that China Reform’s promises to be a passive investor had not been outfits.
Black put the meeting room changes explicitly in the context of the US government’s efforts to block Huawei’s involvement in Western 5G technologies. Black and Bingham were reinstated following the participation of the government and certain committees.
The company was sold in 2017 for £ 550m to Canyon Bridge, a U.S.-based venture capital firm backed by Chinese funds, after Apple said it would no longer use its technology chip, which would cause its share price to drop. The offer has been approved by UK regulatory authorities and Apple has signed a new agreement with Imagination Technologies.
Tugendhat said it was legitimate to examine the role the Department of Foreign Affairs could play in preventing the stripping of Chinese assets from the building blocks of the UK’s future economy, saying it had an advisory role to regulators of British affairs. With the parliament suspended, and no confirmation of its operation after the break, Tugendhat said the investigation could continue in the form of a paper investigation or online evidence gathering.
The episode also highlights growing skepticism about China’s global role after the coronavirus crisis is over. Donald Trump suggested the United States was about to withdraw funding from the United Nations World Health Organization due to excessive Chinese influence, but then withdrew the threat at his press conference Tuesday evening.
Trump’s detractors argue that its America First policy has meant that the United States has left successive multilateral institutions, leaving them ripe for Chinese influence, funding and the appointment of key personnel.