Published 04/09/2023

This report on Cambridge University’s collaboration with Chinese military entities examines a) scientific collaboration between Cambridge and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, and b) executive training at Cambridge of officials from China’s state-owned arms companies.

This report is the first part of a rolling project, UK-China Transparency’s Cambridge China Files.

UK-China Transparency has also published the responses to Freedom of Information requests sent in support of this report, which contain some of the data on which the report is based, alongside a letter from Cambridge’s press office in response to our report.

Cambridge University’s collaborative research with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC):

  1. Cambridge University’s Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) has received over £2 million from CASC, a state-owned Chinese arms manufacturer that is the main supplier of China’s space programme.
  2. CAPE and CASC are involved in a programme of joint collaborative research. The most recent focus has been on smart manufacturing. Past projects have related to fibre optic sensing technology, digital antenna systems, and opto-electronic oscillators, a fundamental technology for aerospace engineering.
  3. A leading scientist from CASC who has also served as a politician in China and in senior roles within the People’s Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party, serves on CAPE’s steering committee.
  4. Cambridge University’s website refers to this programme as a partnership not with CASC but with the ‘Beijing Institute of Aerospace Control Devices’ (BIACD), a relatively little-used English-language alias for one of CASC’s subsidiaries. Cambridge’s website makes no reference to CASC or to BIACD’s military work, but Cambridge has said it is aware of BIACD’s identity.

In response to communication from UKCT prior to the publication of this report, Cambridge stated that it intends to cancel the BIACD partnership and return £1.2 million of funding in September. Cambridge further argued that its projects with BIACD were not for military or dual-use technologies, and that it only worked with the civilian arm of BIACD. UKCT has published Cambridge’s response letter in full.

Executive training of cadres from Chinese arms manufacturers at Cambridge:

  1. A charity called the Cambridge China Development Trust runs a training programme for executives from state-owned Chinese companies. This includes state-owned arms manufacturers. UK-China Transparency has identified a number of senior executives from such companies who have taken part in the training programme.
  2. The programme has historically enjoyed the support of HM Government and involved sessions at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
  3. The programme has also featured sessions focused on high technology and involved at least one tour of a leading physics laboratory in Cambridge.

In response to communication from UKCT prior to the publication of this report, Cambridge stated “The Cambridge China Development Trust is an independent charity, and the University of Cambridge has no role in its governance.”