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Beijing Could Make Mistakes Due to ‘Overconfidence’: UK Spy Chief

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: December 3, 2021
Richard Moore attends a working session during the Foreign ministers of G7 nations meeting in Dinard, on April 6, 2019.
Richard Moore attends a working session during the Foreign ministers of G7 nations meeting in Dinard, on April 6, 2019. (Image: STEPHANE MAHE/AFP via Getty Images)

In a recent speech, the UK’s chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) Richard Moore stated that an overconfident China under the control of the Chinese Communist Party and leader Xi Jinping could commit blunders regarding international decision-making. He was speaking at an event organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London. This was Moore’s first public speech after being appointed as the head of the SIS, also known as MI6, in October.

Moore warned that “tectonic plates are shifting” as China increases power and becomes more willing to assert itself. Beijing believes in its own propaganda about the frailties of the West so much that it underestimates “Washington’s resolve,” the spy chief said. Due to the regime’s overconfidence, the “risk of Chinese miscalculation” is possible.

To emphasize the regime’s aggression, Moore highlighted the CCP’s willingness to overtake Taiwan even with the use of force. This would be a challenge for “global stability and peace.” The MI6 chief also brought attention to Beijing’s abuses in the Xinjiang province and the CCP stripping the rights of Hong Kong citizens. He blamed the Chinese regime for attempting to “distort public discourse and political decision-making” worldwide. 

Moore did acknowledge that there are several areas like trade, cultural links, investment, climate change, and biodiversity where the UK needs to engage with Beijing. But he emphasized that communist China is an authoritarian state with a different set of values. 

Chinese intelligence officers are looking to “exploit the open nature” of British society, including through the use of social media platforms, he said. Chinese espionage continues to conduct operations against the United Kingdom and its allies, specifically targeting individuals involved in research or government positions that are of interest to Beijing. 

“Our adversaries are pouring money and ambition into mastering artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and synthetic biology, because they know that mastering these technologies will give them leverage,” Moore warned. Communist China has now become a major part of MI6’s focus, even surpassing traditional threats like Russia and Islamic terrorism.

He raised concerns about the spread of Chinese surveillance technologies, some of which have been used in persecuting the Uyghur community in Xinjiang. London must soon recognize that “technologies of control” are being spread to world governments. A world affected by the rise of communist China will be the “single biggest priority” for MI6, the spy chief added.

Moore also expressed dissatisfaction about the current state of relations between London and Moscow, which is “not the one the UK wants.” However, the British government will do “whatever it takes” to protect the country against threats posed by Russia.

In an interview with Today, Moore pointed to Beijing’s practice of using debts and loans to acquire “significant ports” which have the potential of becoming naval facilities. This is akin to using economics to do something which the U.S. and the UK have done using force in the past. He also highlighted the threats posed by communist China’s technological prowess. Data and technology now provide the Chinese regime with a path to gain power.

“If you allow another country to gain access to really critical data about your society, over time that will erode your sovereignty, you no longer have control over that data… That’s something which I think in the UK we are very alive to and we’ve taken measures to defend against. It’s not true, I think, in all the conversations I have around the globe, but I’m very keen that people should understand that,” Moore stated.