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From Beijing with Love: Chinese investments in the Netherlands as security threat

Dutch authorities reportedly initiated an enquiry against a Chinese owned company Kuwait Petroleum Netherlands for allegedly monitoring passengers' movement at Schiphol Airport, located in Amsterdam. This airport is owned and operated by Royal Schiphol Group, and is the largest airport in Amsterdam and the third in Europe. Kuwait Petroleum Netherlands owns, operates gas stations and retails petroleum and petroleum-related products in Netherlands.

01.06.2022 20:00
Piše: Valerio Fabbri
Ključne besede:   China   Netherlands   economy   Schiphol Airport   Rotterdam   Belt and Road Initiative   Beijing   European Union   espionage   Smart Photonics   Royal IHC   Kuwait Petrol Netherlands   Dutch external intelligence agency

The Netherlands is the third biggest investment destination for Chinese enterprises in the EU.

Netherlands is not a formal signatory of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but it has attracted Chinese investment in various sectors. However, in recent times, there is increasing caution against Chinese companies on the suspicion of their penetration in advanced technology sector of the Netherlands and stealing patents and copyrights. According to the Annual report (2018) of the Dutch external intelligence agency (AVID), "the biggest threat to the Netherlands by far in the field of economic espionage comes from China". The report explicitly pointed out that "the espionage is fuelled by Chinese economic policy plans, such as 'Made in China 2025' and the 'New Silk Roads', with which the country can increase its economic and geopolitical influence". There is an increasing cynicism in the Netherlands about enhancing economic engagement with China, especially since 2019 when the EU published its EU-China strategic outlook. That same year, the Dutch government also presented its own China strategy. The main concern is about security implications. The previous Chinese strategy published in 2013 emphasized the importance of attracting Chinese investments to the Netherlands.

 

Six years later, Chinese investments in Europe and the Netherlands started to be seen as security threat.

 

According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), over a span of five years (2012-2017) the number of Chinese companies located in the Netherlands nearly doubled from 245 at the end of 2012 to 470 at the end of 2017. According to the latest update, Chinese companies have established some 570 operations in the Netherlands and the country is the third biggest investment destination for Chinese enterprises in the EU. Chinese companies have invested in the Netherlands in a wide range of areas including ICT, agri-food, chemicals and energy. The number of Chinese nationals residing in the Netherland increased from barely 7.500 in 2000 to 36.500 thousand in 2019. Out of every 10 Chinese firms operating in the Netherlands, 4 are involved in wholesale trade mainly in non-food, ICT equipment and industrial machinery – more than 10 per cent of them are Chinese companies engaged in manufacturing. Presence of Chinese entities in strategic sectors like energy is viewed with apprehension in the Netherlands. Apart from Kuwait Petrol Netherlands, owned by China, Jereh, China’s largest privately-held listed integrated oil and gas company, agreed to establish its subsidiary in the Hague in 2016. An agreement was signed between the Deputy Mayor of The Hague Karsten Klein and the CEO of Jereh Group, Weifie Sun.

 

 

Dutch intelligence officials assess that Beijing is interested in Dutch companies from high-tech, energy, maritime and life sciences and health sectors.

 

 

China is aiming to acquire interest in vital sectors in Europe in general and in the Netherlands in particular. After framing the 2019 China strategy, the Dutch government has now become more active in shielding indigenous companies with advanced technologies from Chinese investors looking to acquire them. The Dutch government saved ship building company Royal IHC and integrated photonics company Smart Photonics from bankruptcy to avoid probable Chinese acquisition. Subsequently, the Dutch Parliament declared that the Chinese government’s policy with regard to the Uyghur minority amounts to genocide, something which has also affected their relationship.

 

Dutch intelligence officials assess that Beijing is interested in Dutch companies from high-tech, energy, maritime and life sciences and health sectors. Theft of research findings also take place within legitimate partnerships between academic and knowledge institutions leading to disappearance of Dutch innovation across the border. It has been alleged that China uses a wide range of (covert) resources to undermine the earning capacity of Dutch companies and which can eventually result in economic and political dependencies. Apart from this, some countries including China try to influence public opinion and publications about their own country through education and knowledge institutions.

 

China eyes the Netherlands for expansion of its trade and investment as the latter acts as a "gateway to Europe" and plays a key role as a connective logistic hub. The Netherlands is home to the largest seaport (Rotterdam) and third largest airport (Amsterdam Schiphol Airport) in Europe. The country is China’s second largest non-EU trade partner. Chinese investors have deployed around cumulative 23 billion euros in the Netherlands in investment in various sectors. But in view of the US-China trade war, the Netherlands is also not willing to entertain the Chinese companies facing ban or sanctions from the United States. Although, the Dutch investors see the Belt and Road Initiative as an opportunity, there is widespread belief that caution and due diligence are required while accessing this market.

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