The head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) has warned of China’s increasingly “assertive” stance in global affairs, and use of “debt traps and data traps” to secure influence.
Richard Moore, known to spies as C, gave his first live broadcast interview on Tuesday morning.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that while he believed that free societies possessed an advantage over authoritarian ones, “we need to be very robust in fighting our corner” and leverage “the entrepreneurial animal spirits” within science and techonology to keep pace with Beijing.
Mr Moore said Britain had observed China using loans and debt to “acquire significant ports that have the potential to become naval facilities”, but he added that data and technology now provided a comparable avenue for Xi Jinping’s government to gain power.
He said: “If you allow another country to gain access to really critical data about your society, over time that will erode your sovereignty – you no longer have have control over that data.
“That’s something which I think in the UK we are very alive to and we’ve taken measures to defend against. It’s not true, I think, in all the conversations I have around the globe, but I’m very keen that people should understand that.”
Mr Moore, who was named as MI6 chief last July, said that under Mr Xi it was clear “we are now in a more assertive stage with China, China has expectations of its role in the international community”.
He said that while elements of Beijing’s behaviour was “perfectly legitimate”, it was also true that “China is controlled by an authoritarian regime, that they don’t share our values and, often, their interests clash with ours”. But he added he did not support an “adversarial” relationship with the rising superpower.
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