Dutch gov't will no longer be "gullible" towards China in new strategy

China national flags
China national flagsPhoto: Alan/DepositPhotos

Collaboration with China is of great importance to the Netherlands, but with that cooperation the Netherlands must pay attention to the ideological differences that exist between the two countries, the Dutch government said in its new 'China strategy'. The 100-page long document outlines economic opportunities, but also concerns, NOS reports.

"If you ask me 'Should we be afraid of China?', my answer is no. But we must be realistic. We must base ourselves on facts and knowledge. Not on feelings and images. But we have been too good-natured and gullible in the past", Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs said.

"It is logical for China to take its place in the world, but the government believes that this should be done fairly, on a level playing field and according to internationally agreed rules", the strategy states. The Netherlands wants to cooperate with China in areas such as "climate, trade, agriculture and transport". But must also keep an eye out for "cyber espionage and influencing of our values and norms."

China's share of the global economy is growing rapidly. Between 2001 and 2017, exports from the Netherlands to China grew from 1 billion euros to 11 billion euros annually. The Netherlands imports 36 billion euros in goods and services from China each year. 

Early in April intelligence service AIVD warned against Dutch dependence on Chinese technology. Countries such as China and Russia have an offensive cyber strategy against Dutch interest, the service warned. Dutch parliament previously also said that it would prefer to keep Chinese companies out of crucial infrastructure. While there is no official Dutch stance on Huawei's involvement in a 5G network in the Netherlands, KPN already said that it will only use the Chinese company for non-critical parts of the network. 

Employers' organization VNO NCW called the government's China strategy balanced, but also points out that it is missing some things. "The new policy line must be further elaborated on in the coming period. For example, there is no offensive vision of how we ourselves will retain our competitiveness in the light of the rise of China", chairman Hans de Boer said to NOS. It is also not entirely clear how the government plans to guard Dutch interest against China. "At this point I think there is still too little attention for preventing unfair competition with cheap state capital."