Chinese spies target key Dutch industries in bid to strengthen Beijing’s military

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Corporate headquarters of ASML, a supplier of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry in the Netherlands.

Chinese spies are targeting semiconductor, aerospace and maritime industries in the Netherlands as they strive to strengthen China’s armed forces, the Dutch military intelligence agency, MIVD, claims. “China wants to be independent from western knowledge and technology (and) wants to build a military that can match any other,” MIVD declares in its annual report published yesterday. Not yet possessing the latest cutting edge technology, Beijing seeks access overseas via legitimate channels of research and investment. However, MIVD and others contend that the Chinese are augmenting this approach with cyber espionage activities.

In February, Dutch intelligence agencies announced that state-backed cyber spies had gained access to a Dutch military network last year. In 2023, citing security concerns, the Netherlands and the U.S. collaborated to stop China from having access to specific chipmaking technology. Sanction-like restrictions were imposed on the sale of deep ultraviolet equipment manufactured by the top chip making equipment maker ASML to Chinese customers. Moreover, earlier this month, Washington reportedly pressured the Netherlands to stop ASML from servicing certain tools in China.

According to the MIVD annual report, China continues to target western armed forces about their modern weapon systems and related operational expertise, and is also bent on seeking out what it can about other advanced industries.”China tries to get hold of technology in the Netherlands in various ways, using a combination of (cyber) espionage, company insiders, acquisitions, circumvention of export restrictions and reverse engineering of technology for which no licenses are required,” the Dutch intelligence agency said.

The report asserts that Chinese intelligence agencies have broadened the scope, intensity and technical level of their cyber campaigns over the past 12 months. It also suggests that Chinese universities play a vital intelligence-gathering role, noting that [Chinese] scientists employed by western companies often work for China’s security services and state companies.

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