Daily Mail

Head of MI6: China is now the greatest priority for our spies

- By Mark Nicol Diplomatic Editor

THE threat posed by China to the free world is the ‘single greatest priority’ for Britain’s spies, the head of MI6 revealed yesterday.

In his first speech as Chief of the Secret Intelligen­ce Service, Richard Moore said China’s large-scale espionage operations were taking up more time and resources than ever before.

Mr Moore, who took up the role of ‘C’ in October 2020, said Beijing was targeting government department­s, industries and ‘research of particular interest to the Chinese state’ in Britain as well as in other global nations.

He also explained how China is setting ‘debt traps’ and ‘data traps’ for third world countries and exploiting their need for aid.

In recent days, a Chinese bank allegedly took over Uganda’s internatio­nal airport and other state assets in lieu of debts owed to Beijing.

Similarly, China assumed ownership of a major shipping port in Sri Lanka when the government could not meet its repayment schedule. The transfer gave China control of territory just a few hundred miles off the shores of its rival India, and a strategic foothold along a critical commercial and military waterway.

China is also supplying surveillan­ce technology to authoritar­ian regimes around the world and tools to restrict internet access. Tanzania and Zambia have recently bought such gadgetry. China then hoovers up data on the citizens in these countries to further its artificial intelligen­ce programmes.

Mr Moore said China was ‘using its influence through economic policies to try and get people on the hook’.

He told the Internatio­nal Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank in London: ‘Adapting to a world affected by the rise of China is the single greatest priority for MI6. China is an authoritar­ian state.

‘This is reflected in the threats we see emanating from the Chinese states. Their intelligen­ce services are conducting largescale espionage operations against the UK and its allies. This includes targeting those working in government, industries or on research of particular interest to the Chinese state.

‘They also use social media platforms to facilitate their operations and to attempt to distort public discourse and political decision-making across the globe.’

He went on: ‘Worryingly, technologi­es of control and surveillan­ce [widely used in China] are increasing­ly being exported to other government­s by China, expanding the web of authoritar­ian control around the planet.

‘We want other countries to be clear-eyed about the debt traps, data exposure and vulnerabil­ity to political coercion that arise from dependency on relationsh­ips where there is no recourse to an independen­t judiciary or free press.’ The confidence China has gained from extending its influence around the world could lead Beijing to assume it can steamrolle­r the UK and the US, he said.

The hasty American and UK withdrawal from Afghanista­n may have compounded that view, according to Mr Moore.

He said: ‘The tectonic plates are shifting as China’s power and its willingnes­s to assert it grows. Furthermor­e, there is no doubt about the morale boost the Taliban victory has given extremist movements and its potential emboldenin­g effect on countries such as Russia, Iran and China.

‘Beijing believes its own propaganda about Western frailties and underestim­ates Washington’s resolve. The risk of Chinese miscalcula­tion through over-confidence is real.’

There are growing fears China will take military action to reoccupy Taiwan, which could push world powers towards conflict.

On Russia, Mr Moore said it was essential the West stood up to the ‘full spectrum’ of its threats – from attacks such as the Salisbury poisoning to the use of political proxies to undermine stability in the Balkans.

■ Richard Moore is continuing an MI6 tradition of spy chiefs writing in green ink, he confirmed yesterday.

The practice dates back over 100 years – and Mr Moore said even his emails are in green.

‘Debt traps and data traps’

 ?? ?? Military might: Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square, Beijing
Military might: Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square, Beijing
 ?? ?? Warnings: Richard Moore
Warnings: Richard Moore

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