The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “fear” of losing its grip on
power, its own people and the international rules-based system is
threatening global security, Director GCHQ warned today.
In a speech today Sir Jeremy Fleming said the Chinese leadership is
using its financial and scientific muscle to in a bid to dominate
strategically important technologies - from digital currencies to
satellite technology. While the UK and its allies seek science and
tech advancement to enable prosperity, the CCP wield it as a “tool
to gain advantage through control of their markets, of those in
their sphere of influence and of their own citizens,” he said.
He highlighted the paradox that China’s “great
strength combined with fear is driving China into actions that could
represent a huge threat to us all”. Warning of the immediacy of the
threat, he said now is a “sliding doors moment in history” that
“will define our future” and the science and tech community in
like-minded countries must act to tackle it.
Speaking at the RUSI Annual Security Lecture at the Science Gallery
in London, Sir Jeremy said:
“The Chinese leadership believes it draws its strength, its
authority, from the closed, one-party system. They seek to secure
their advantage through scale and through control. 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 Party has bet their future on this approach, shutting off the
many alternative futures for the Chinese people in the process. They
hope that future success, based on this system, will be inevitable.
“But I think underlying that belief is a sense of fear. Fear of its
own citizens, of freedom of speech, free trade, open technological
standards and alliances – the whole open, democratic order and the
international rules-based system. It is no surprise that while the
Chinese nation has worked to build its advanced economy, the Party
has used its resources to implement draconian national security
laws, a surveillance culture, and the increasingly aggressive use of
“And we’re seeing that fear play out through the manipulation of the
technological ecosystems which underpin our everyday lives – from
monitoring its own citizens and restricting free speech to
influencing financial systems and new domains.”
He highlighted certain technologies as examples of the way the
Chinese state was trying to seek leverage, both at home and abroad.
Central Bank Digital Currencies which could allow the state to
monitor transactions of its citizens and companies. He also warned
the Chinese state was “learning the lessons” from the war in Ukraine
and a centralised digital currency could “enable China to partially
evade the sort of international sanctions currently being applied to
Putin’s regime in Russia”.
the BeiDou satellite system which the CCP has “used ever lever to
force Chinese citizens and businesses to adopt” as well as exporting
it around the world. Sir Jeremy said: “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.
And there are fears the technology could be used to track
international tech standards. He cited an example of Chinese
industry proposing new principles which would threaten the freedom
of the internet by reducing its interoperability and causing the
fragmentation of systems. He said the hand of the Chinese state can
be detected in the moves for a model with greater governmental
control and which “threatens human right by the introduction of new
tracking methods”; and
smart cities, which, with the wrong technology, have the potential
to export surveillance and data.
He also warned how China is seeking to create “client economies and
governments” by exporting technology to countries around the world.
Sir Jeremy will say these countries risk “mortgaging the future” by
buying in Chinese tech with “hidden costs”.
While highlighting the challenge he urged key players in the science
and tech community to “think beyond the illusion of the inevitable”
and “recognise that creating an alternative, competitive and
compelling offer for technology is an opportunity for the whole of
society we can’t afford to miss”.
Sir Jeremy said:
“At GCHQ there are times when it is our privilege and duty to see
the sliding door moments of history. This feels like one of those
moments. Our future strategic technology advantage rests on what we
as a community do next. I’m confident that together we can tilt that
in our nation’s favour.”
During the speech he also addressed the war in Ukraine, saying:
“Far from the inevitable Russian military victory that their
propaganda machine spouted, it's clear that Ukraine’s courageous
action on the battlefield and in cyberspace is turning the tide.
“Having failed in two major military strategies already, Putin’s
plan has hit the courageous reality of Ukrainian defence.
little effective internal challenge, his decision-making has proved
flawed. It’s a high stakes strategy that is leading to strategic
errors in judgement. Their gains are being reversed. The costs to
Russia – in people and equipment are staggering. We know – and
Russian commanders on the ground know – that their supplies and
munitions are running out.
“Russia’s forces are exhausted. The use of prisoners to reinforce,
and now the mobilisation of tens of thousands of inexperienced
conscripts, speaks of a desperate situation.
“And the Russian population has started to understand that too.
They’re seeing just how badly Putin has misjudged the situation.
They’re fleeing the draft, realising they can no longer travel. They
know their access to modern technologies and external influences
will be drastically restricted. And they are feeling the extent of
the dreadful human cost of his war of choice.”