Banning petrol and diesel cars leaves us at China’s mercy

Adam Wildsmith

August 11, 2023

In an age dominated by technological advancement and global interconnectedness, our nation’s security landscape demands vigilance and foresight. As the car industry hurtles towards electrification, a new and concerning development has emerged on the horizon: the surge of Chinese electric vehicles into our markets. In the past year, China has overtaken Germany and Japan in being the world’s biggest exporter of cars. It has shipped 1.07 million abroad, in the first quarter of this year alone. This surge raises unparalleled economic and national security concerns that warrant careful consideration.

While security breaches are thought impossible by manufacturers, recent experiments conducted in the United Kingdom have revealed shocking technological flaws. Field experts have showcased an alarming ability to remotely compromise vehicles, wresting control away from unsuspecting drivers with nothing more than a malevolent presence behind a laptop screen. The consequence of such vulnerabilities cannot be understated: they represent a chasm in our national security. As sources have revealed to The Telegraph, these “gaping holes” in our defences lay bare the potential for widespread chaos.

The Chinese government, driven by its authoritarian agenda, has taken the self-preserving step of banning Tesla vehicles in certain regions due to perceived security risks. In July, they banned Teslas from the beach resort of Beidaihe for at least two months. The resort, known as the “summer capital”, is a popular vacation spot among the communist elite. This is no isolated incident; it highlights an inclination towards safeguarding their own interests by keeping certain technologies at bay. Is it therefore not inconceivable to ask: Could they not employ similar tactics in our own backyard? 

It is foreseeable that the government’s decision to prohibit the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 could be an act of remarkable self-harm. As part of an effort to make the economy more environmentally friendly, the government has highlighted the significant advantages of diminishing reliance on Russian oil and gas. However, the transition to electric vehicles will lead the UK to shift its focus from oil (and the autocratic regime of Russia) to electric power (and the authoritative rule of China).

The motivations for such actions are compelling. The communist Chinese regime’s reach looms large, with a track record for leveraging technology for its own gains. It was just three years ago that the government banned Chinese company Huawei from the UK’s 5G network, with the then Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Oliver Dowden, saying the company was a “high risk” vendor that posed “a threat to our national security”. 

EV manufacturers within China’s borders would be beholden to stringent national security laws, leaving them little choice but to yield to government directives. Ken Munro, a security expert and ethical hacker at Pen Test Partners told The Telegraph, “We did a bunch of work on aftermarket car alarms. And we discovered that in many of them, you could actually remotely enable the microphones and listen to people in the cars.”

In January, an investigation by the i paper unveiled the discovery of a Chinese monitoring device within a government vehicle. Given China’s history and incentive for conducting such actions against our citizens, the increasing dominance of the Chinese regime in the UK electric vehicle sector ought to evoke concern about the possibility of them having access to our activities, residential information, and even our conversations.

As we usher in an era of cleaner transportation, we must not allow our pursuit of progress to blind us to the threats. The influx of Chinese electric vehicles, while promising environmental benefits and economic growth, demands a thorough examination of the accompanying security risks. Our national safety cannot be compromised for the promise of expediency or economic incentives. The onus falls on us to ensure that as we move towards a greener future, we do so with eyes wide open to the multifaceted challenges that lie ahead. 


Written by Adam Wildsmith

Adam Wildsmith is Deputy Director at Blue Beyond and a Journalism student at Newcastle University

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