LONDON (Reuters) -China is using its financial and scientific muscle to manipulate technologies in a manner that risks global security, Britain’s top cyber spy will say on Tuesday, warning that Beijing’s actions could represent “a huge threat to us all.”
In a speech, Jeremy Fleming, director of the GCHQ spy agency, will say that the Chinese leadership was seeking to use technologies such as digital currencies and its Beidou satellite navigation network to tighten its grip over its citizens at home, while spreading its influence abroad.
“They seek to secure their advantage through scale and through control,” Fleming will say in the annual security lecture at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, according to extracts released by his office.
“This means they see opportunities to control the Chinese people rather than looking for ways to support and unleash their citizens’ potential. They see nations as either potential adversaries or potential client states, to be threatened, bribed, or coerced.”
The remarks are Fleming’s latest public warnings about Beijing’s behaviour and aspirations. Last year, he said the West faced a battle to ensure China did not dominate important emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and genetics.
Fleming will say the Chinese leadership was driven by a fear of their own citizens, of freedom of speech, of free trade and open technological standards and alliances, “the whole open, democratic order and the international rules-based system.”
That fear combined with China’s strength was driving it “into actions that could represent a huge threat to us all,” he will say.
A spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry said the claims had “no basis in fact”.
“China’s financial and technological development is aimed at making a better life for the Chinese people, and is not aimed at anyone and does not constitute a threat. Harbouring a China threat theory and provoking confrontation is both detrimental to others and harmful to oneself,” the spokeswoman told reporters.
Fleming will also highlight technologies where he says China is seeking to gain leverage, such as its development of a centralised, digital currency to allow it to monitor the transactions of users, as well as to possibly evade the sort of sanctions Russia has faced since its invasion of Ukraine.
He will also point to Beidou, China’s answer to the U.S.-owned GPS navigation system.
“Many believe that China is building a powerful anti-satellite capability, with a doctrine of denying other nations access to space in the event of a conflict,” he will say. “And there are fears the technology could be used to track individuals.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden in London, additional reporting by Martin Pollard in BeijingEditing by Matthew Lewis, William Maclean)