German intelligence chiefs warned on Monday that China could use critical infrastructure holdings as leverage to pursue political objectives, amid a debate in Berlin over whether to let the shipping company China Cosco invests in the port of Hamburg.
The Green-led German Economics Ministry wants to veto Cosco’s offer to buy a stake in one of the three terminals at Germany’s most important port, while the Social Democrat-led Chancellery is more willing. favor, according to government sources.
The dispute reflects a broader and heated debate in Germany about how to reduce reliance on China, its main trading partner, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted the dangers of reliance on an increasingly assertive and authoritarian state. .
China has urged Germany not to politicize economic relations between the two countries, nor to practice protectionism “in the name of national security.”
In a parliamentary hearing that addressed various security issues, the heads of Germany’s foreign and domestic affairs intelligence agencies said they could not make a public assessment of Cosco’s offer, but generally urged caution.
“We are very, very critical of China’s involvement in critical infrastructure,” BND head Bruno Kahl told a parliamentary hearing, noting that a port should be considered infrastructure. critical, so any possible investment must be reviewed very carefully.
Germany needs to be aware of the possibility of China using technology, including 5G infrastructure, or economic power to implement its ideas, he added. “In the event of a political disagreement between China and Germany, these instruments will be used,” she said.
The head of Germany’s national intelligence service, Thomas Haldenwang, said holdings in critical infrastructure could also open the door to sabotage and influencing public opinion.
“When I talk to foreign partners about China, they always say: Russia is the storm, China is the climate change,” he said.
“So we’re going to have to prepare for this climate change in the next few years.”