Giving a rare radio interview, Sir Alex Younger rejected the belief that Beijing will “become more like us” as it gains in wealth and economic ties.
The sweeping 100-page review sparked controversy by announcing plans for more nuclear warheads.
Sir Alex, who served as “C” from 2014 until September last year, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s no doubt that China represents the generational threat and the reason for that is that the idea that China will become more like us as it gets richer or as its economy matured is clearly for the birds.
“That’s not going to happen. On the contrary I expect China’s Communist Party to double down on its ideology in the future … that’s going to generate rivalry and reduce trust.”
His words were seen by Tory MPs, who last year staged a major revolt to stop Huawei from being allowed to build 5G comms, as a repudiation of the analysis underpinning UK missions to China, that trade would make China adopt western values.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stressed that the UK would avoid a new “Cold War” with China, promising to engage “constructively” on issues including human rights, copyright and climate change. Today’s review proposes a constructive relationship with China. It also confirms the creation of the UK Cyber Force and Space Command. But the Army is to lose 10,000 troops and the Navy is to retire two frigates and its minesweeper flotilla as it awaits three new classes of frigates to be built over 15 years.
The Ministry of Defence is to gain an extra £16.5 billion — bringing the increase of the budget over inflation to £24 billion over the next four years.
It points to the Indo-Pacific as a focus of commercial and strategic interest. It is asking to join the ASEAN partnership alongside India and Australia. Boris Johnson is making a major tour to India soon. The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is about to sail to South-East Asia on its first major deployment.
Ominously, the report suggests “it is likely that a terrorist group will launch a successful chemical, or biological or nuclear attack by 2030.”
A new cross department Counter Terrorism Operations Centre — CTOC — is to be set up. A new ‘cadre of reservists’ is to be formed to help tackle domestic emergencies such as natural disasters, pandemics, and the fall out of major terrorist incidents and disruptions of public utilities.