LONDON: China’s growing technological dominance “is an increasingly urgent problem” for Western countries, who must act to defend their values and influence, the director of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency warned on Tuesday (Oct 11).
In a speech to the RUSI defence think-tank in London, Jeremy Fleming said “technology has become not just an area for opportunity, for competition and for collaboration. It has become a battlefield for control, for values and for influence”.
He cited China’s quest for dominance in new technologies such as satellite navigation – with its BeiDou system – and digital currencies, as it is in the process of launching its “digital yuan”.
The Chinese leadership sees such progress “as a tool to gain advantage through control of their markets, of those in their sphere of influence. And of course of their own citizens”, Fleming said.
Fleming, who has been head of the cybersecurity agency since 2017, urged Western countries to act and invest in next-generation technologies.
At the same time he insisted that the UK has “no issue with the people of China and the Chinese community who contribute hugely to life here in the UK”.
As China gradually extends its influence and rolls out its technology globally, particularly in developing countries, Western countries must be ready to “offer alternative solutions that are practical, that are affordable and that are backed by international funding or market investment”, the agency chief said.
“China is using all of the levers it has to challenge the international post-war consensus on economics and technology,” Fleming said.
“They see nations as either potential adversaries or potential client states to be threatened, bribed or coerced.”
Beijing reacted dismissively to excerpts from Fleming’s planned speech which were released on Monday evening.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman said the claims “have no factual basis”.
“China develops finance and technology in order to help the Chinese people enjoy better lives. It does not target anyone else and certainly does not constitute a threat,” the spokeswoman Mao Ning said.
“Holding to the ‘China threat’ theory and fanning opposition and confrontation harms both oneself and others,” Mao added.