EU chief urges caution in tech trade with China


Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, cautioned on Thursday that the European Union must be ready to develop measures to defend trade and investment that China may use for its own security and military interests.

Speaking before a trip to China scheduled for the next week, von der Leyen stressed the significance of preventing “critical technologies” from Beijing’s control in order to prevent security crackdowns or the restriction of human rights.

For some crucial areas, she warned, we may need to build new defensive tools due to China’s shifting policy. “There will need to be a clear line on whether investments or exports are in our own security interests,” the author writes, “when dual-use aims cannot be precluded or human rights may be compromised.”

In addition to managing international commerce on behalf of the EU’s 27 member nations, the commission also represents those nations’ interests at the WTO.

According to Von von Leyen, the EU should concentrate its defences on “critical high-tech fields” as the biotech industry, robotics, quantum computing, and microelectronics.

She told academics at a gathering organised by the European Policy Centre think tank and the Mercator Institute for China Studies that “we need to ensure that our companies’ capital, expertise, and knowledge are not used to enhance the military and intelligence capabilities of those who are also systemic rivals.”

We must examine any holes in our arsenal that permit the leakage of cutting-edge and sensitive technologies through investments in other nations, according to von der Leyen. Technology that “may lead to the development of military capabilities that pose concerns to national security,” she claimed, should be the emphasis.

The EU is currently reevaluating its occasionally tense relations with China, particularly in light of Beijing’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is evident in the commission president’s speech. Nonetheless, Von der Leyen emphasised that it’s crucial to maintain diplomatic, commercial, and scientific ties with such a “critical trading partner.”