Monday 17 May 2021

Ministers divided on China strategy, May deadline set for a deal


The Dutch government is struggling to draw up formal strategy to deal with China and its economic interests, broadcaster NOS said on Friday.

The strategy should be completed by May, but ministers have differing opinions about what that strategy should be and some have been described as naive by civil servants involved in the talks, NOS said.

For example, the justice ministry and the AIVD security service say the Netherlands should be as independent as possible from China, because of the risk of industrial espionage.

But the economic affairs ministry, NOS says, is only interested in the economic interests and has been described as ‘naive’ by officials. The foreign ministry, by contrast, is concerned that a tough statement will have an impact internationally, NOS said.

One thorny issue on the table is that of the 5G telecoms network. Last month, RTLZ reported that KPN was poised to hook up with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to build the network, stealing a march on the government’s plans to take an official position on Chinese involvement. Neither company has commented on the claim.

Earlier this week, the AIVD security service warned about the risks of using Chinese equipment for crucial infrastructure and said digital attacks and espionage by countries such as China, Iran and Russia pose a real threat.

In the US Huawei has been accused of espionage on behalf of the Chinese authorities and the US ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, told Trouw last month that the company should be kept out of the Dutch market. ‘This is very, very important to us,’ Hoekstra is quoted as saying.

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