Liz Truss to declare China a ‘threat’ to the UK

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Hawks welcome major shift to Britain’s diplomatic stance to reflect long-term danger to ‘our values and way of life’

Liz Truss to declare China a ‘threat’ to the UK

Liz Truss is set to formally designate China a “threat” to the UK for the first time, in a major shift of Britain’s diplomatic stance.

A formal update to Boris Johnson’s 2021 Integrated Review will upgrade the country from a “systemic competitor”, in a move welcomed by Conservative China hawks.

The update is expected within days and will reflect Ms Truss’s view that China is “the most serious long-term threat to our values and way of life”.

On Tuesday, a Downing Street spokesman confirmed that the review is under way. Sources did not deny that the classification of “threat” would be used for the first time.

The move was welcomed by China sceptics on the Tory benches who include Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader, and Tom Tugendhat, a security minister.

Ms Truss and her MPs have already criticised China for its human rights record in the Xinjiang province, where the United Nations says there is evidence Uighur people have been forced to work for no pay.

Satellite system used to ‘control and surveil’

It came as one of Britain’s top spy chiefs warned that China could be using its own version of GPS to “control and surveil” people in 120 countries around the world.

Sir Jeremy Fleming, the head of GCHQ, also said the BeiDou satellite navigation system could give China an advantage over the West in future conflicts.

The Chinese system, Sir Jeremy said, “is now present in over 120 countries around the world” and could be used to harvest user data.

“Its capabilities, its data, are openly available to the Chinese state,” he told the Royal United Services Institute in a lecture on the security threat posed by China.

There are already concerns that the data being generated by BeiDou users “is being used to control and surveil and not just support prosperity”, he said.

Unimpeded access

As well as critical civilian applications in the banking and national infrastructure sectors, armed forces are reliant to a significant degree on unimpeded access to satellites.

Security chiefs worry that in a future conflict over Taiwan, Beijing could use the anti-satellite weapons it has been developing to destroy the US satellites providing GPS, giving them a significant battlefield advantage.

In 2007, China used a ground-launched missile to destroy one of its FY-1 weather satellites in low earth orbit – sparking international condemnation after the explosion created a cloud of tens of thousands of pieces of debris, many of which are still orbiting the planet today.

In its 2020 report to Congress on China’s military capabilities, the US Department of Defense said Beijing “probably intends to pursue additional [anti-satellite] weapons capable of destroying satellites up to geosynchronous Earth orbit”, a much more dangerous development.

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