Richard Moore, the MI6’s chief, has made an unusual statement highlighting the intelligence service’s plan will focus on China, Russia, Iran and international terrorism. Mr Moore delivered his first public speech on Tuesday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Moore, 58, a former diplomat and agent runner, made serious allegations against China during his speech.
He notably accused Beijing of conducting “large-scale espionage operations against the UK and our allies.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme before his speech that countries globally should be “clear-eyed” when dealing with Beijing because of the potential to fall into a debt trap or to have data on their population exploited.
For the first time, more MI6 resources are directed towards China than to Russia and international terrorism.
The MI6’s chief added: “The tectonic plates are shifting as China’s power, and its willingness to assert it, grows.
“Adapting to a world affected by the rise of China is the single most significant priority for MI6.
“We are deepening our understanding of China across the UK intelligence community and widening the options available to the government in managing the systemic challenges that it poses.”
“Beijing believes its propaganda about Western frailties and underestimates Washington’s resolve. The risk of Chinese miscalculation through over-confidence is real.”
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He described the Chinese Intelligence Services as “highly capable” before mentioning the efforts by the Chinese government “to distort public discourse and political decision making across the globe”.
Regarding the controversy over Taiwan, an autonomous territory that China has vowed to reunite with the rest of the country, by force if necessary, Richard Moore said a military intervention from China in the region would be a “serious challenge to global stability and peace.”
In what he called the “big four” priorities for MI6, Mr Moore quoted President Vladimir Putin’s controversial actions in the Western Balkans that are “on an upward trend.”
He said: “From time to time, we get sort of crises around Ukraine as we worry about a build-up of troops and what President Putin’s intentions might be.
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“Therefore, it bears very careful watching and it bears very careful signalling to the Russians about, you know, the price that they would have to pay if they intervened, as they did in 2014.”
“We’re not trying to encircle Russia. We’re not trying to prevent it from pursuing its legitimate interest.”
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Afghanistan were also mentioned as one of the main priorities.
Moore, who is known as C as per tradition, became MI6 chief last year.
He also revealed that he still writes in green ink, following a tradition that dates back to 1909 when Mansfield Cumming, the first head of MI6, would sign all his letters with “C” in green.