MI6 chief thanks China for ‘free publicity’ after spoof James Bond video

A James Bond skit was shared by China's usually strait-laced news agent and earned a swift riposte from the actual head of Britain's intelligence agency, ITV News Correspondent John Ray reports

The head of MI6 has thanked China's state news agency for "free publicity" after it mocked his concerns about Beijing in a spoof James Bond video ridiculing western intelligence agencies.

Richard Moore, codenamed C, said in a rare speech last November that China's ascendancy had become the intelligence agency's "single greatest priority" for the first time in its history.

Britain’s foreign intelligence chief warned in London that China was at risk of “miscalculating through over-confidence” over Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a breakaway province, rather than a sovereign state.

The speech was unexpectedly referenced in a video featuring a pair of supposed British spies - James Pond and Black Window - which was posted to Twitter on Tuesday by China Xinhua News.

The state agency said the four and a half minute clip, titled No Time to Die Laughing, was leaked footage of a secret meeting between British and US spies.

It showed the "British spies", played by Chinese actors, enter a country house and talk about a dossier on Chinese espionage tactics.

In the clip, punctuated with canned laughter, the two elegantly dressed agents thank M - the codename for the head of MI6 used in Bond films - for exaggerating the threat China poses to the world.

MI6 Chief Richard Moore speaks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies last November. Credit: PA

The spoof also alludes to Mr Moore's previous comments that China was forcing smaller countries to take on burdensome borrowing in return for building vital infrastructure. 

"You know what's pathetic, using the fictional Chinese debt trap and data trap as an excuse to secure our massive budget for next year," Pond complains.

On Thursday, Mr Moore, who is the first MI6 chief to have a Twitter account, replied to the tongue-in cheek post linking readers back to his original speech.

His comments come at a time of heightened tension between the West and China.

In December, Boris Johnson said no ministers will attend the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics over alleged human rights abuses in China, which Beijing strongly denies.

Xi Jinping's government is accused of persecuting Uyghur Muslims in its northwest Xinjiang province.

Relations are also under pressure due to China's growing suppression of political freedoms in Hong Kong, with two large online news organisation recently closing amid a crackdown on independent media.