New Report: Chinese influence over European critical infrastructure is growing

Headquarters of the Ministry of Public Security of China.

In a new report, MEPs warn of the risks of growing Chinese influence over European critical infrastructure and calls on the EU to take action to reduce crucial vulnerabilities.

In the report, MEPs examine how China, through its so-called military-civil fusion (MCF) strategy, is increasingly gaining access to and exercising influence over European critical infrastructure. This includes sectors of vital importance for the EU, such as transport infrastructure and ports, telecommunications networks, rare metals and undersea cables. MEPs point to the MCF strategy being a Chinese state-led and directed programme that instrumentalises all levels of state and commercial power to strengthen and support the Chinese Communist Party and its armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army. They identify specific concerns with China’s MCF strategy targeting technology transfer, with the objective of increasing its dominance in foreign countries and undermining geopolitical rivals. While commending recent legislative steps taken by the EU to enhance the resilience of its critical infrastructure, MEPs are concerned these initiatives are limited to screening procedures for foreign direct investment, leaving other channels open for the Chinese Communist Party to gain access and influence over European critical assets. Pointing to the continued vulnerability of Europe’s vital infrastructure, they call on the EU and member states to expand the regulatory framework quickly to exclude entities that could contribute to MCF, especially in the field of technologies with military applications.

“Today’s vote is a strong signal of commitment to countering China’s growing assertiveness on the global stage and in particular its influence on our critical infrastructure. We need to develop a stronger regulatory framework and implement stricter oversight measures to identify potential threats to the EU’s security. Strengthening our open strategic autonomy while reducing dependencies on key raw materials and technologies must be our priority”, rapporteur Klemen Grošelj (Renew Europe, Slovenia) said after the vote on the report in the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The text, prepared by the Subcommittee on Security and Defence, was approved by 49 votes in favour, 4 against with 1 abstention.

Strengthening the EU’s resilience in dealing with China

Warning of the threats of Chinese involvement with EU strategic assets and the implications for Europe’s defence and security, MEPs highlight in particular the risk of transfers of European technology and expertise, especially to companies directly or indirectly connected to China’s military system, which could enable the technological development of the People’s Liberation Army. They also point to the huge risk that the Chinese quasi-monopoly on rare earths poses for Europe’s defence and other key sectors, as well as for the EU’s open strategic autonomy and the European economic security strategy. To address this, MEPs want the EU and its member states, in coordination with industry stakeholders, to implement legislation such as the Critical Raw Materials Act and take decisions to gradually reduce the EU’s dependence on China by diversifying Europe’s sources of critical raw minerals and rare earth elements.

MEPs are also alarmed that privately owned undersea cables provided by Chinese companies – such as HMN Technologies, a People’s Liberation Army cyber intelligence–affiliated entity – facilitate the diplomatic and military communications of the EU and its member states. Pointing to the fact that undersea data cable systems operated by HMN Technologies connect EU member states territories and the Indo-Pacific region, as well as EU member state and NATO military bases, they warn of the risk of creating security vulnerabilities as regards cyber security, underwater surveillance, data collection, and intelligence gathering by China.

It will now be submitted to a vote by the European Parliament as a whole.

For all the details, the full report will be made available here.

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