Feb 16, 2021 - World

Growing number of countries issue warnings on China's espionage

Illustration of magnifying glass over star

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In the past week, intelligence agencies in the Netherlands, Finland and Canada expressed deep concern about China's espionage and political influence in democracies.

Why it matters: Three years ago, the U.S. was something of a global outlier in its strident warnings against China. Now democratic countries around the world are echoing the same fears.

The Netherlands: Last week, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) released a report on threats to Dutch national security interests. The report was blunt in its criticism of China, stating that Beijing's cyber espionage poses an "imminent threat" to the Dutch economy, in sectors including banking, energy and infrastructure.

  • "Behind the scenes, China is rising on the agenda of the Dutch intelligence services. Spearheaded by the AIVD and NCTV, the focus is on economic espionage and political influence," Ties Dams, a research fellow at the Clingendael China Centre at the Clingendael Institute, told Axios.
  • "With the upcoming elections in March, this is the intelligence community signaling that China has to be prioritized," said Dams.

Finland: Antti Pelttari, director of the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service, said last week that “authoritarian countries are trying to get hold of Finland’s critical infrastructure," referring to China and Russia.

  • Pelttari also said he believes Huawei should not be permitted to build Finland's 5G networks.

Canada: David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said last week that China is "pursuing a strategy for geopolitical advantage on all fronts — economic, technological, political, and military — and using all elements of state power to carry out activities that are a direct threat to our national security and sovereignty."

  • “These activities ... cross the line by attempting to undermine our democratic processes or threaten our citizens in a covert and clandestine manner," Vigneault said.
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