Sir Jeremy Fleming stated in a lecture that the Chinese government is utilizing technological means to ensure its dominance at home and abroad. He insisted that the United Kingdom and its allies needed to act quickly to solve the crisis.
As for Russia, he said their military was depleted but there had been no use of nuclear weapons. The head of the intelligence agency told attendees at the Royal United Service Institute’s annual security lecture that China has deliberately and patiently set out to gain “strategic advantage by shaping the world’s technology ecosystem.”
Sir Jeremy claimed the Chinese Communist Party was trying to establish its power at home and abroad by manipulating the technology people rely on. He said countries risked “mortgaging the future” by importing Chinese technology with “hidden costs” and that China was trying to create “client economies and governments” by doing so.
He cited several instances as proof, such as:
More than 120 countries have incorporated China’s BeiDou satellite navigation system, a competitor to the global positioning system into their transportation systems, he said. In a conflict, he said, it could be used to track individuals or in conjunction with plans to destroy the satellites of opposing countries.
China has proposed new internet standards that would give the government more oversight.
He speculated that China’s plans for digital currencies were an attempt to avoid the effects of sanctions, like those felt by Russia.
Despite warning young people to be more cautious about sharing their personal information, the CIA director said he would not prevent children from using the Chinese company ByteDance’s TikTok app.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in advance of the lecture, “No, I wouldn’t (stop children from using TikTok) but I would speak to my child about the way in which they think about their personal data on their device.”
A fundamental realization that there is no such thing as a free good needs to take root in us at a young age in my opinion. When we use these services, we give up some personal information in exchange for the convenience of doing so, this is fine so long as we feel confident in the security measures in place to protect our information.
“Make the most of that make those videos use TikTok — but just think before you do,” he cautioned. But he added, “Our future strategic tech advantage rests on what we do as a community next.” Sir Jeremy, who heads the agency that keeps tabs on communications and the internet has also demanded that British universities have an “adult” conversation about working with China.
Some universities have been under fire for working on controversial joint projects with Chinese universities that have military or spying ties.
The UK should “be really clear on the areas of technology where we will require additional safeguards,” he said, while still welcoming Chinese students. The importance of AI and quantum computing, he told the crowd, was paramount.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was also mentioned in his speech. The Russian military, he claimed was “exhausted” and low on resources. He argued that President Putin was wrong to make such a mistake and that the mobilization of prisoners and young, inexperienced men spoke of a desperate situation.
Sir Jeremy said the Russian military was “running short of munitions” and “is certainly running short of friends” on the Today show on Radio 4. In terms of weaponry, he claimed that the recent Russian missile strikes were not an escalation. However, he did warn that Russia was still “very capable” of doing damage as evidenced by Monday’s missile attacks across Ukraine.
He continued, “Russia’s military machine can launch weapons; it has deep stocks and expertise. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, it has been stretched to absurd proportions. In response to audience members’ questions following his presentation, he said, “Any talk of the use of tactical nuclear weapons is extremely dangerous” but added that their use still seemed “hopefully a long way off.”
Although there were never any assurances, he added that he thought the United Kingdom and its allies had a “good chance” of spotting any preparations.
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