China is seeking to use space and cyber technology in ways that could pose a “huge threat” to us all, Britain’s top espionage chief will warn on Tuesday.
Sir Jeremy Fleming, the head of GCHQ, will use a rare public speech to show that Beijing could target an adversary’s satellites in times of conflict, undermining key areas the military relies on for weapons and communications.
There are concerns that the technology could also be used to track people.
He will also say the Chinese Communist Party is “learning lessons” from Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has seen Britain and its allies impose sanctions on the Russian economy.
Sir Jeremy will describe how Beijing uses digital currencies to track people’s transactions and help protect its economy from sanctions Vladimir Putingovernment.
Western allies are watching China Watch closely amid President Xi Jinping’s concerns May be considering an invasion of Taiwan Islandusing lessons from Russia’s attack on Ukraine to strengthen its defenses against any Western response.
Speaking of the war in Ukraine, the GCHQ director general will say that Russia is running out of weapons and that the price the Kremlin is paying in terms of soldier deaths and loss of equipment is “staggering”.
He will also say that Ukraine’s armed forces are “turning the tide” on the physical battlefield and in cyberspace.
“Putin’s plan hits the brave reality of Ukraine’s defense,” the spy chief will say, according to excerpts from a speech released Monday night.
“The cost to Russia – personnel and equipment is staggering. We know – and local Russian commanders know – that they are running out of supplies and ammunition.”
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The keynote of the presentation at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London will be about the importance of China and Western allies in the race for technological superiority.
The head of GCHQ will highlight the paradox that Beijing’s “great power coupled with fear is driving China into actions that could pose a huge threat to us all”.
Talking about the enormous importance and impact of emerging technologies on everyday life, Sir Jeremy will cite a “sliding door moment” in history, using a rather unusual analogy to the 1998 novel by Gwyneth Paltrow Starring in a romantic comedy in which a seemingly inconsequential incident – catch one before the door slides shut or miss training – has huge repercussions.
Given the differences in values between democratic and authoritarian regimes, the spy chief will stress the need to ensure Western allies have technological solutions that do not depend on China.
“At GCHQ, we’ve had the privilege of seeing a sliding door moment in history,” he would say.
“It feels like one of those moments. Our future strategic technological advantage depends on what we do next as a community. Together, I believe, we can tilt it into our collective good.”
He stressed the dangers of inaction, accusing the Chinese government of using its financial and scientific clout to manipulate key technologies such as satellite systems and digital currencies to expand its reach and tighten its grip on domestic power.
He will specifically talk about the Beidou satellite system that authorities force Chinese citizens and businesses to adopt and export around the world.
Sir Jeremy would say: “Many people believe that China is building a strong anti-satellite capability on the principle of denying other countries access to space in the event of a conflict. There are concerns that this technology could be used to track individuals.”
He will also talk about a central bank digital currency that allows China to monitor user transactions.
In addition, the head of GCHQ will explain how a centralized digital currency “enables China to partially circumvent the kind of international sanctions currently in place against Russia’s Putin regime.”