Germany recently raided the homes and offices of three individuals who are suspected of being spies of Beijing. No one has been arrested as of yet, although two of the suspects passed on information to China while the third did not actually pass on anything.
“One of the three suspects was a German national who until 2017 had worked as a senior diplomat for the European Union’s foreign service, including multiple stints as an EU ambassador… the former diplomat had held a string of senior posts in the EU’s foreign service. On leaving the EU civil service he had set up as a lobbyist… He is also believed to have visited China in the company of his handling officer,” according to Reuters.
The raids took place in Berlin, Brussels, Baden-Württemberg, and Bavaria. Two of the suspected spies are believed to have passed social and private information to the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Even though the third individual did not transfer any information, he had apparently indicated his willingness to do so.
This is the first case in recent times where there has been a strong allegation of spying on Germany by the Chinese regime. The relationship between the two countries has also been uneasy ever since Chinese companies started acquiring German tech firms in 2016. The subsequent year, Germany’s intelligence agency accused Beijing of trying to infiltrate the administration through LinkedIn.
There is also pressure on Germany to allow Chinese communications company Huawei to establish 5G infrastructure in the country. Horst Seehofer, a top German official, recently admitted that his country does not believe in taking a product off the market just because something wrong might happen. “I don’t see that we can set up a 5G network in Germany in the short term without participation by Huawei,” he said to a local newspaper (AP).
However, there is strong resistance in the administration against giving the contract to Huawei since it comes with a risk of communication networks getting compromised by Chinese espionage. But blocking Huawei could trigger China to punish Germany by targeting its auto industry or other sectors. Last month, the Chinese ambassador to Germany, Wu Ken, reminded Berlin that out of the 28 million cars that were sold in China the previous year, 7 million were of German origin. He warned that there would be “consequences” to excluding Huawei.
Affected by US-China trade deal
The recently signed Phase 1 deal between the U.S. and China has made Germany unhappy. The agreement mandates that China buy a specific amount of goods from the United States. This essentially means that China may potentially have to cut its imports from other nations. According to Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Europe would lose about US$11 billion from the deal.
“Among the EU countries, Germany is particularly affected, and among the sectors, especially aircraft and vehicle manufacturing… China, which has repeatedly insisted on the values of the multilateral system, is thus making itself an accomplice in the violation of the core principles of the WTO,” he said to Reuters. Germany has been suffering from slow economic growth over the past months and will not want their Chinese exports to go down in the future. In fact, German economic growth fell to just 0.6 percent last year, which is the lowest level since 2013.