China takes moral high ground over spying revelations

"It's like a thief shouting stop thief," that's how a leading Chinese expert in US/China relations described to me the fallout from the NSA spying revelations.

Whistle blowing Edward Snowden has provided valuable intelligence, which the Chinese government can use to fire back the next time the White House criticises China's oppressive regime of internet and telephone surveillance.

Edward Snowden, speaking to the Guardian. Credit: Guardian/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras

In less than an hour we'll hear the first official on camera comments from the Chinese foreign ministry.

Expect indignation and condemnation of the US secret spying programme; especially as Snowden claims China was targeted.

Director of the NSA General Keith Alexander said US surveillance programmes have helped to prevent "dozens" of potential terrorist attacks. Credit: Reuters

How will the Chinese leadership handle the potentially tricky diplomatic situation?

Senior officials are in a win-win situation.

They can sit back and enjoy the show, a grandstand view of a drawn out extradition battle in Hong Kong's courts.

With the legal process modelled on the English system, the high levels of disclosure will mean America's dirty laundry will be washed in the international glare for months.

As a bonus, Beijing has a veto over any decision by the courts to surrender Snowden.

Useful leverage.

So for now China can take the moral high ground, accusing the US of hypocrisy and watch with relish as Snowden spills more secrets.

He's probably the greatest unwitting intelligence asset they've ever had.