China is allegedly recruiting former British pilots to train the People’s Liberation Army armed forces. According to UK intelligence, at least 30 retired ex-pilots would have accepted.
According to the British Defense Ministry, China has recruited at least 30 retired British pilots to train People’s Liberation Army pilots after announcing its intention to make it “more efficient and modern”. Among the people recruited, there are also pilots of sophisticated fighter jets. The defense ministry fears that what is happening could be a threat to national security.
Britain has made it known that it wants to work with foreign partners to stop the practice that began as early as 2019, shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic. In recent months, however, also thanks to the war in Ukraine and the worsening of the crisis with Taiwan, the recruited pilots seem to be increasing. Among them, also figures of the Royal Air Force and former employees of the armed forces.
However, none of them are accused of violating the Official Secrets Act, the British law on international espionage. Britain, however, promises to strengthen controls on former pilots called by China and on those who will retire in the coming months to prevent them from being recruited abroad and disclosing confidential information.
To persuade them to accept, the Chinese authorities would offer large sums of money. According to intelligence, guaranteed salaries reach figures of up to $ 270,000 a year. Among the pilots recruited there would be not only British citizens, but also people residing in Australia and the United States.
The UK’s fear is that China may use the information of former British employees not only to educate its military, but also to help Vladimir Putin’s Russia in the war with Ukraine. In particular, however, the Taiwan issue is worrying: the Chinese desire to annex the independence island has been the subject of various discontent between Beijing and Washington. Despite diplomatic visits to Taipei, the US has never formally recognized the island as an independent state, but has declared itself ready to provide military assistance in the event of an invasion. On the other hand, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that he was ready to use force to “reunite the motherland”.