The EU is wide open to Chinese infiltration – and Net Zero has made it worse

A server pours wine during a reception to mark the beginning of the Spanish Presidency of the European Union Council held at the Spanish Embassy in Beijing, China, 6 July 2023. Spain took over the presidency of the EU Council on 01 July 2023, for a six-month period. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO


In London, the last few weeks have provided a glimpse into the way in which the liberal West has been infiltrated, and to an extent is being subverted by, the Chinese state.

Studies have revealed the methods the Chinese state is using to recruit operatives; arrests have been made at the heart of the political establishment.

Meanwhile the EU is rolling inexorably towards a trade war with the superpower over the dumping of cheap – well cheapish – electric vehicles (EVs). Questions are now being raised as to how deeply the EU has been infiltrated and what it is doing to combat the threat.

In recent years the EU’s strategic reliance on Russian energy resources has meant that its foreign policy objectives have been undermined by global real politik. The Brussels mandarin’s answer to this problem is beginning to look like another painful and expensive dead end.

The drive to Net Zero, and its focus on renewable electric power, requires the ability to store energy – namely, battery capacity. And where does it get those batteries? Either from China, or from Chinese manufacturers already embedded within the European economy.

Add to that the certain suspicion of Chinese intelligence infiltration and the EU faces an imperfect storm to navigate in order to stave off economic and energy disaster.

On the face of it, Brussels bureaucrats are stuck between the disintegration of the German economy, their traditional cash cow, the Devil in the person of Vladimir Putin, and the dark red sea of China. Their hardwired commitment to the vanities of Net Zero have become a self-inflicted wound, a wound into which the Chinese are having absolutely no compunction over rubbing in salt.

We have no specifics on how and who the Chinese are working with in Brussels and its associated EU entities but we do have the warning signs.

The UK Government has just responded to internal reports saying, “China’s human intelligence collection is prolific, using a vast network of individuals embedded in local society to access individuals of interest – often identified through social media. It is also clear from the evidence we have seen that China routinely targets current and former UK civil servants”

Last year the Belgian Security services, the VSSE, produced their annual report focussing heavily on the threats posed by China. Being responsible for Belgium, their remit covers the European institutions. The threat posed by China, they say is  “a grey zone between lobbying, interference, political influence, espionage, economic blackmail and disinformation campaigns, and between which the boundary is often blurred”.

Despite Belgium expelling the head of the Chinese Institute in Belgium in 2015 for espionage, and the Free University of Brussels suspending its Confucius Institute, these Chinese state funded operations are still increasing in number and now 200 EU universities host them.

The problem is that the Chinese do not suffer the problems of democracy and its inherent short termism. European political leaders need quick fixes to keep their electorates happy.

The Chinese perspectives are longer. Mao’s supposed comment on being asked about the impact of the French Revolution being “too early to tell”, maybe apocryphal, but carries a significant truth. The Chinese play a long game.

Europe’s attempt to position itself as the virtue capital of the world in pursuing its Net Zero agenda has meant that it found itself massively exposed to Russian influence at the start of the Ukraine war. In particular, Germany’s fortunes are gordian-tied to Russian gas production.

Flipping out of that problem to renewable energy, now leaves the EU at an intense vulnerability to China that has stolen a march in the production of batteries, 60 per cent of world lithium battery production – so vital to Electric Vehicles and the storage of energy – is Chinese.

Even the batteries produced in Europe, barring the Swedish operation Nordvolt, are produced by Chinese firms. The giga-battery production facility in Germany owned by the Chinese firm CATL now has contracts with a slew of European carmakers: BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Volvo.

President von de Leyen’s attempt to play hardball with China over the dumping of EVs in the European market is now compromised by Chinese manufacturing sites inside the wall of the European tradeblock, the employment they provide and the influence they peddle.

The simple fact is strategically and tactically the EU is not prepared for what has been happening on its watch. Its systems are lax and vulnerable to infiltration.

Vetting of those working in the European institutions is risible or non-existent. Though the UK has started to arrest possible spies in its systems, the EU seems paralysed in its response. Worse, it doesn’t feel that anybody in Brussels is able to take it seriously.