Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
A high-ranking German official suppressed a sensitive intelligence report in 2018 on China’s growing influence in Germany out of fear it would damage business ties with China, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: Business interests have long shaped Germany’s relationship with China, to the detriment of human rights concerns and even national security.
Details: The highly sensitive report, completed in 2018, examined the Chinese government’s attempts to influence every level of German government, society and business, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.
What they're saying: "As a matter of principle, the German government does not comment on matters concerning intelligence findings or activities of the intelligence services," a federal government spokesperson told Axios.
The big picture: German policy toward China has traditionally been driven by economic factors.
How it works: Those business interests have tended to discourage their home governments from policies seen as harmful to economic ties with China.
The result: “There has been a lot of self-censorship in Germany with regard to China,” said Noah Barkin, an expert on Europe-China relations at the Rhodium Group. “Merkel’s approach has been to criticize China behind closed doors, rather than in public.”
But things are starting to change in Germany and around Europe amid growing global scrutiny over China’s economic practices and human rights abuses.
Between the lines: The 2018 report thus landed at a crucial time for Germany’s relationship with China — but before many powerful players were prepared to abandon their economics-first approach to the relationship.
What to watch: Germany has often set the tone for the EU. As Berlin begins to become more hawkish on China, so may the EU.
IntelliBriefs bring you Intelligence briefs on Geopolitics , Security and Intelligence from around the world . We gather information and insights from multiple sources and present you in a digestible format to quench your thirst for right perspective, with right information at right time at right place . We encourage people to contact us with any relevant information that other news media organizations don't cover . Contact :firstname.lastname@example.org