Over 900 Dutch companies owned by China or Chinese parent; Experts fear espionage
The Netherlands has 903 companies that are at least 50 percent owned by a Chinese parent company or the Chinese State, RTL Nieuws and Follow the Money report. The companies are active in the port of Rotterdam and the telecom and energy sectors. Intelligence service AIVD and China experts are worried about espionage, according to the broadcaster.
The Netherlands is an interesting country for China. Between 2018 and 2021, almost 90 percent of Chinese investments in Europe went to four countries - the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. “There are a lot of them,” China expert Jonathan Holslag of the Free University in Brussels said to RTL Nieuws about the list of companies. “This makes it quite difficult for the government to monitor them permanently.”
China owns several large container transshipment companies in the port of Rotterdam, including COSCO - a leading player in the container flows between Europe and China. Chinese high-tech companies are also popping up around technical universities in the Netherlands, like the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). According to RTL, the TU/e campus is home to at least eight Chinese companies focused on high-tech knowledge.
Holslag called China’s presence at the port of Rotterdam and the technical universities “very worrying.” “We must consider that China sees cooperation as a means, not an end. It is a means to take our technology, our knowledge in the long term, so as not to be dependent on other countries anymore,” he said. About the port, he said: “China has access to our market and wants to gradually dominate those logistics chains. We cannot just let that happen. Some caution is in order here.”
Chinese companies are also prominent in the Dutch solar energy sector. Chint Solar, for example, has 13 solar parks in the Netherlands that supply power to 160,000 households, and another six solar parks are under development. The Netherlands considers the energy sector “vital infrastructure.” There are 14 Chinese companies active in this sector.
And 25 Chinese-owned companies are active in other vital infrastructure sectors like money transfer, internet and data services, and IT and communications.
It is time to intervene, Holslag said to the broadcaster. “We are too dependent on China, and we must reduce that dependence quickly. Otherwise, we will only pay a much higher price for it later, as we are now doing with Russia.”
Intelligence service AIVD has warned about China’s increasing influence in the Netherlands for years. “China is the biggest threat to economic security in the Netherlands,” the AIVD said in its most recent annual report, warning of espionage, influence, and sabotage. “The country is trying to obtain high-quality knowledge and technology in the Netherlands.”
This year, the AIVD is researching specific threats and manifestations and how companies and the government can arm themselves against them, according to RTL.