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Leading UK Research Scientist Gave Talks in China on Weapons Development

A British weapons expert developing advanced ballistic capabilities for the country’s armed forces has been on lecture tours in China, it has been revealed.

Clive Woodley gave talks to Chinese arms industry leaders in Beijing while working as a principal scientist at the security company Qinetiq—a contractor for the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

And last October, Woodley—a visiting researcher at the Institute of Shock Physics at Imperial College in London—spoke at a conference in east China, focusing on “a new chapter in the development of artillery, shells, and missiles.”

In the audience taking notes were leading figures in the Chinese weapons industry, according to online magazine, Unherd.

Woodley worked for Qinetiq from 2001–2018 and was invited in 2017 to the Beijing Institute of Technology by the State Key Laboratory of Explosion Science and Technology to give a lecture about “internal ballistics at Qinetiq.”

There, according to the State Key Laboratory’s account of the lecture, Woodley “gave serious and detailed answers” during a Q&A and “had a lively discussion with teachers and students.”

He also conducted “in-depth research” on explosive science with leading Chinese academics linked to the ordnance industry, the Chinese hosts reported.

An active speaker and committee chair on the weaponry R&D lecture circuit, the  67 year-old co-chaired the first international conference on defence technology in Beijing in 2018 with a leading Chinese defence scientist, Changgen Feng.

Electromagnetic launching and impact mechanics were among the high-teach weaponry topics discussed.

The Unherd report claimed some of Woodley’s research was funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, which is part of the MoD.

“It’s insane that we are doing nothing to stop the ludicrous practice of letting hostile nations get hold of our best tech,” a government source told the UK’s Times newspaper.

Qinetiq said in a statement it had “robust processes to vet our people and their activities both within and outside the business.”

The UK government said in a statement: “We have robust procedures to make sure research contracts do not contribute to overseas military programmes and that individuals or organisations with foreign-state links cannot access our sensitive research.”

Woodley told The Times the Ministry of Defence “was aware” of his activities, while Imperial College said he was an unpaid visiting researcher, and that it does not carry out sensitive, classified research.

The Epoch Times asked Woodley and Qinetiq for comment.

China has over the past year shocked Western defence chiefs and unnerved governments by unveiling a slew of new high-tech weaponry and missiles.

Last August, the PLA tested a mysterious nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that circled the earth before dispersing its dummy warheads toward multiple targets.

And last month, the PLA Navy published a video clip exhibiting a previously undisclosed missile being fired from a Type 055 guided-missile cruiser.

Many China watchers believe China has leapt ahead in weapons development mainly through espionage—but there is growing concern about how cooperation in defence-related academic and conferencing projects benefits what is increasingly viewed as a hostile adversary.


Peter Simpson is a British journalist who has worked for major international news media and spent a decade covering China from Beijing, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, during which he broke many exclusives. He is interested in all facets of the Sino-UK relationship and geopolitics. Other interests include sport, business, culture, and travel.


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