Britain’s spy chief says China’s tech targets are a ‘threat to us all’

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The head of Britain’s cyber-intelligence agency accuses China of using its economic and technological clout to suppress his country and exert control abroad, saying Beijing’s aggressive stance is motivated by fear and poses “a huge threat to all of us”. .”

Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ, said communist authorities in Beijing seek to “shape the global tech ecosystem”, using technologies such as digital currencies and satellite systems to control China’s population and increase its influence in the world. world.

In a rare public address later Tuesday to the Royal United Services Institute think tank, Fleming plans to say that the one-party system in Beijing seeks to control the Chinese population and sees other countries “as potential adversaries or states.” potential customers, to threaten”. , bribed or coerced.

He will say that “underlying this belief is a feeling of fear”.

Political cartoons about world leaders

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“And we see this fear manifesting itself through the manipulation of the technological ecosystems that underpin our daily lives – from surveillance of its own citizens and restriction of free speech to the influence of financial systems and new domains,” Fleming will say, according to excerpts from the speech broadcast in advance.

Relations between Britain and China have grown increasingly frosty in recent years, with British officials accusing Beijing of economic subterfuge and human rights abuses.

British spies gave increasingly negative assessments of Beijing’s influence and intentions. Last year, the head of overseas intelligence agency MI6, Richard Moore, called China one of the biggest threats to Britain and its allies.

Fleming will warn that China is seeking to fragment internet infrastructure to exert greater control. He will also say that China is seeking to use the digital currencies used by central banks to spy on user transactions and as a way to avoid future international sanctions of the type imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Fleming also argues that China’s BeiDou satellite system – an alternative to the widely used GPS navigation technology – could contain “a powerful anti-satellite capability, with a doctrine to deny other nations access to space in the event of conflict”.

GCHQ said Fleming would warn the world is approaching a ‘sliding door moment in history’ – a reference to the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow film in which a woman’s fate seemingly hinges on a moment insignificant.

He will call on Western companies and researchers to strengthen intellectual property protections and on Western countries to work harder to develop alternatives to Chinese technology, which Fleming said comes with “hidden costs”.

The US banned Chinese tech company Huawei as a security risk, and in 2020 then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Huawei removed from the UK’s 5G telecommunications network. by 2027.

Fleming will also address the war in Ukraine, saying Russia is out of arms and that “Ukraine’s courageous action on the battlefield and in cyberspace is turning the tide.”

“The Russian forces are exhausted,” he will say. “The use of prisoners for reinforcement, and now the mobilization of tens of thousands of inexperienced conscripts, speaks of a desperate situation.”

GCHQ, officially known as Government Communications Headquarters, is one of Britain’s three main intelligence agencies, alongside MI5 and MI6. He did not disclose the sources of his intelligence on China and Russia.

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