Rishi Sunak is under fire from a former Conservative prime minister for the second time in a month – over his controversial decision to invite China to his AI flagship.
A defiant Mr Sunak rejected calls from his own party to exclude the country from the conference, which will be held at the home of the UK's Second World War violators.
Mr Sunak insisted that “no serious strategy” could be developed to manage the risks posed by artificial intelligence without input from one of the world's leaders in the technology.
But his predecessor Liz Truss criticized the move, saying she was “deeply disturbed” and called on the prime minister to rescind the invitation.
Ms Truss hit out at the Chinese state which she said had “used and abused technology to aid the oppression of millions and attacks on freedom and democracy”.
The former prime minister warned that Beijing sees artificial intelligence as a “means of state control and a tool of national security”.
And he said the concerns that led current deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden to decide to remove Huawei from its role in the UK's 5g network in the coming years “should have informed decisions about invitations to the Bletchley Park summit ».
He added that “no reasonable person expects China to abide by what was agreed at this kind of summit, given its cavalier attitude towards international law.”
Both Ms Truss and another former Tory prime minister, David Cameron, attacked Mr Sunak earlier this month after he used his party conference speech to scrap the second leg of the HS2 network in Manchester and announced plans to prevent certain young people from ever being able to buy cigarettes. .
The controversy comes as Mr Sunak faces intense pressure over his stance on China.
Former Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith, one of the party's many China hawks, accused the government of an attitude that “reeks of appeasement”.
It comes as the White House revealed that US Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the UK summit at Bletchley Park.
In a major speech before the rally, Mr Sunak warned of the serious dangers posed by artificial intelligence – including terrorists using the technology to make bioweapons and even human extinction.
Defending his move to include China in the talks, the Prime Minister said: “I know there are some who will say (China) should have been excluded, but there can't be a serious AI strategy without at least trying to involve all the top artificial intelligence in the world. powers.”
Mr Sunak added: “This may not have been the easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do.” However, he admitted that although they had accepted the invitation: “I can't say with 100 percent certainty that China will be there.”
While Chinese officials will attend the first day of talks on Thursday, they will not be invited to the second, which will involve like-minded countries. Mr Sunak will convene a small group of companies and experts, while science secretary Michelle Donelan will lead ministerial meetings on the second day.
Despite Mr Duncan Smith's view that the decision to invite China was “surprising” – arguing that “dealing with them makes us look weak” – some China hawks welcomed the idea of Beijing officials being at Bletchley Park .
Senior Tory MP Bob Shealy, who has pushed for a tougher stance on Beijing, said The independent: “It is generally good news that [Mr Sunak] has invited China”.
The select member of the foreign affairs committee said: “There is a risk that China will see what everyone else is doing and then do their own thing. But you don't want them to be kicked out of the conversation before the conversation even starts. There is always hope that China will change.”
Mr Seeley added: “The worst case for society will be used by bad rulers to effectively analyze dissent before it happens and make it impossible to oppose dictatorial regimes – just as George Orwell predicted. So there is a risk that China will abuse it.”
“There will be an open society approach, a closed society approach – and the battle will be for countries in the middle, like countries in India, the Middle East and South America.”
Before the US vice president attends the summit, she will deliver a speech outlining her administration's approach to artificial intelligence next Wednesday, a day before the event begins.
Asked whether the Biden administration could distract from the UK conference, Mr Sunak's official spokesman. “It is right that we work in partnership with the US on this … that is absolutely right.”
Earlier, Mr Sunack's deputy, Oliver Dowden, said ministers would wait and see whether Chinese officials did indeed come to the UK for the meeting.
“It's true that you wait and see who actually shows up at these events,” he said, though he added: “We're waiting for them to come.”
Since taking over as No 10 a year ago, Mr Sunak has taken a softer approach to China than Ms Truss.
He was preparing to brand Beijing as a “threat” to the UK before he was ousted from power. Mr Sunak described China as an “era-defining challenge”.