The chief of the signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, has become the latest UK security chief to ramp up the rhetorical pressure on China in the wake of Huawei’s aborted role in developing the UK’s 5G network.
Jeremy Fleming, who became GCHQ boss in 2017, warned the West is facing a “moment of reckoning” as there was a “risk” that key technologies on which Western nations rely on will be shaped by non-Western powers.
Speaking to the BBC’s veteran security correspondent, Gordon Corera, Fleming presented the following risk assessment: “The risk, as I see it today, is that we lose control of the standards that shape our technology environment”.
"The things that make sure that our liberal Western democratic views are baked into our technology", Fleming added.
Prior to becoming boss of GCHQ Fleming had a long career in the Security Service (MI5) and led the organization’s preparations for the London Olympics in 2012 in his capacity as head of intelligence collection.
Fleming was speaking to the BBC ahead of giving this year's Vincent Briscoe Annual Security Lecture at London’s Imperial College.
The GCHQ boss told BBC’s Corera that while the UK is a “big beast” in the technology sector but “we can’t take that for granted”.
Fleming appears to hold hardline views on the Chinese technology giant Huawei, whose planned role in developing the UK’s 5G network was aborted following intense pressure and lobbying by a group of Sinophobe Tory MPs as well as the previous US Administration.
"The conversation about 5G was really lost a decade ago, when Western nations decided that they weren't going to invest in the underpinning infrastructures... and the result was we just didn't have the choices", Fleming claimed.
Fleming advised UK leaders to develop “long-range” decisions so as to provide “choice” and by extension reduce “over-dependency” on non-Western powers like China.