Former MI6 chief: UK needs "coherent and consistent" strategy for dealing with China

18 July 2020, 11:37 | Updated: 18 July 2020, 11:46

Nigel Inkster, former MI6 Chief on China's rising power

By Seán Hickey

A former executive at MI6 said that China's rising power is more of a challenge than a threat to the UK, which calls for a solid strategy for dealing with the superpower.

Nigel Inkster is the former Director of Operations and Intelligence at MI6 and he spoke to Matt Frei about the rising influence of China in world politics. He has written extensively on the country's power and was reflecting on the UK's choice to ban Huawei from our 5G network.

He told Matt that the Huawei decision has shown the UK to side with America in their tensions with China but said that he doesn't know "whether now it's going to be possible to have a balanced relationship between the USA and China" because of the current situation.

Mr Inkster said that conversely, "that is what the UK should be aiming for" in its relationship with China, despite the Huawei decision. He added that "we've never had a coherent and consistent strategy for dealing with China" and the Huawei decision is further evidence of that

"On 5G the USA has dropped the ball" Mr Inkster said, arguing that "China has stolen a march on them" and they are "on the brink of a major spurt of technology innovation." The former MI6 chief worried that the Huawei decision might have been premature in this case.

Mr Inkster said that the UK must work to form a "coherent strategy" for dealing with China
Mr Inkster said that the UK must work to form a "coherent strategy" for dealing with China. Picture: PA

Because of the influence China is slowly building up on a global stage, Matt asked Mr Inkster "how much of a threat is Xi Jinping's China to us?" He told listeners that he believes the nation is "more of a challenge than a threat."

Acknowledging their expanding platform on the world stage, Mr Inkster noted that "we're going to be under pressure here to conform more to the Chinese world view and Chinese values" if we are to maintain a relationship with the superpower.

Ultimately, Matt wondered which is a greater challenge for the UK going forward, Russia or China. Mr Inkster insisted that without any doubt it is China, because while Russia meddles, China has true potential to impact the countries that criticise or attack it. "Russia is not a great power in the way that China has become" he said.