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Netherlands fears Chinese cyberattacks amid chips battle

The Hague is ‘increasingly worried’ about online threat from China, foreign minister says.

May 31, 2023

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra | Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

The Netherlands is concerned about Chinese cyberattacks, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said, weeks after The Hague introduced export restrictions on advanced microchips technology to China.

“Domestic interference, but also […] cyberattacks stemming from Chinese soil, is something about which we are increasingly worried,” Hoekstra told POLITICO's Brussels Playbook.

Hoekstra's concerns echo reports from the Dutch intelligence services, which label countries with "cyberattack programs" including China as posing a "massive threat."

The Netherlands is home to ASML, a keystone for global chips production and the only company outside the U.S. and Japan that is able to produce the printers needed to manufacture advanced semiconductors. The firm has faced intellectual property theft incidents linked to China in the past. In February it said a China-based former employee stole data about its machinery, and in 2019 it revealed it had been the victim of corporate espionage linked involving Chinese employees.

"We are worried about what we see as civil-military fusion” in China, added Hoekstra, who is also deputy prime minister. "We are worried about intellectual property theft."

Earlier this year, the country took center stage in the growing tech battle between the U.S. and China. In March, The Hague struck a deal with the U.S. and Japan to restrict exports of chips technology to China, in an effort to shut down the supply of cutting-edge semiconductors to Beijing.

National security concerns are increasingly part of the equation on chips, Hoekstra said, adding his country was "worried about a non-level playing field."

The cyberattack fears were also behind the Dutch government's decision in March to ban officials from using the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on their work phones.


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