China poses an “epoch-defining” challenge to the west, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is reportedlyto warn.
Lindy Cameron, who is the director of the GCHQ arm, will use a speech in Belfast this week to warn the UK and allies of the “dramatic rise of China as a technology superpower”.
The remarks, to be delivered this week at the CyberUK annual conference, come as the US, the UK and western nations attempt to navigate the growing economic and political reach of China amid concerns about the threat the country poses to security.
Concerns about China have already led to the UK government banning ministers from using video-sharing app TikTok on their work phones after a security review.
The House of Commons and the Lords also cited security concerns as they decided to ban the app – owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance – across the Palace of Westminster.
“We cannot secure future technology without addressing the epoch-defining challenge that we are facing: the dramatic rise of China as a technology superpower,” Cameron will say, in comments reported by the Times.
“China has identified several existing and emerging technologies as being vital to its future national security. And it has an aspiration to become a world leader in setting technological standards.
“So we need to be clear: China is not only pushing for parity with western countries, it is aiming for technical supremacy. It will use its tech strength as a lever to achieve a dominant role in global affairs. What does this mean for cybersecurity? Bluntly, we cannot afford not to keep pace otherwise we risk China becoming the predominant power in cyberspace.
“Some may dismiss this as far-fetched or scaremongering, but it is a risk I would urge you to take seriously. This is simply not something about which any of us can be complacent.”
The government’s updated blueprint for UK foreign and defence policy – the “refreshed” integrated review published last month – described China under Communist party rule as representing an “epoch-defining and systemic challenge” to almost every aspect of government policy and the everyday lives of British people.
But Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, remains under pressure from some MPs within his own party to take a tougher stance against Beijing.
Liz Truss recently labelled Emmanuel Macron’s trip to China a “sign of weakness”, after the French president asked Beijing for support in ending the Ukraine conflict – the latest of a series of foreign policy interventions from the former prime minister designed to encourage Sunak to take a tougher approach towards China.