Five Eyes in­tel­li­gence al­liance builds coali­tion to counter China

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The five na­tions in the world’s lead­ing in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing net­work have been ex­chang­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion on China’s for­eign ac­tiv­i­ties with other like-minded coun­tries since the start of the year, seven of­fi­cials in four cap­i­tals said.

The in­creased co­op­er­a­tion by the Five Eyes al­liance - group­ing Aus­tralia, Bri­tain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States - with coun­tries such as Ger­many and Ja­pan is a sign of a broad­en­ing in­ter­na­tional front against Chi­nese in­flu­ence op­er­a­tions and in­vest­ments.

Some of the of­fi­cials, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the talks, said the en­hanced co­op­er­a­tion amounted to an in­for­mal ex­pan­sion of the Five Eyes group on the spe­cific is­sue of for­eign in­ter­fer­ence.

While China has been the main fo­cus, dis­cus­sions have also touched on Rus­sia, sev­eral said.

“Con­sul­ta­tions with our al­lies, with like-minded part­ners, on how to re­spond to China’s as­sertive in­ter­na­tional strat­egy have been fre­quent and are gath­er­ing mo­men­tum,” a U.S. of­fi­cial told Reuters. “What might have started as ad hoc dis­cus­sions are now lead­ing to more de­tailed con­sul­ta­tions on best prac­tices and fur­ther op­por­tu­ni­ties for co­op­er­a­tion.”

All the gov­ern­ments in­volved, in­clud­ing Ger­many and Ja­pan, de­clined to com­ment.

China, faced with a grow­ing back­lash from Wash­ing­ton, Can­berra and other cap­i­tals, has re­jected ac­cu­sa­tions that it is seek­ing to in­flu­ence for­eign gov­ern­ments and that its in­vest­ments are po­lit­i­cally driven.

The en­hanced co­or­di­na­tion by the Five Eyes net­work sug­gests that, de­spite sig­nals from U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that he is pre­pared to go it alone in the con­fronta­tion with China, mem­bers of his ad­min­is­tra­tion are work­ing hard be­hind the scenes to put to­gether an in­for­mal coali­tion to counter Bei­jing.

It also rep­re­sents an­other blow to China’s fad­ing hopes of con­vinc­ing Eu­ro­pean coun­tries, un­set­tled by Trump’s “Amer­ica First” poli­cies, to dis­tance them­selves from Wash­ing­ton and move closer to Bei­jing.

“Be­low the radar”

The of­fi­cials who spoke to Reuters said the talks have been tak­ing place “be­low the radar” and mainly bi­lat­er­ally. Two sources said France was also in­volved, but on a less reg­u­lar and com­pre­hen­sive ba­sis.

None sug­gested that Ger­many, Ja­pan or other na­tions out­side the Five Eyes net­work had been in­vited to meet­ings of the in­tel­li­gence al­liance, which was set up af­ter World War Two to counter Soviet in­flu­ence.

But a state­ment is­sued af­ter a Five Eyes meet­ing on the Gold Coast of Aus­tralia in late Au­gust hinted at closer co­or­di­na­tion. It said the group would use “global part­ner­ships” and ac­cel­er­ate the shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion on for­eign in­ter­fer­ence ac­tiv­i­ties.

In­ter­na­tional co­or­di­na­tion has ac­cel­er­ated in par­al­lel with a wave of na­tional mea­sures to limit Chi­nese in­vest­ments in sen­si­tive tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies and counter what some gov­ern­ments view as a grow­ing cam­paign, un­der Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, to sway for­eign gov­ern­ments and so­ci­eties in China’s fa­vor through a mix of pres­sure and in­duce­ments.

Last De­cem­ber, cit­ing con­cerns about Chi­nese in­flu­ence, the Aus­tralian govern­ment un­veiled a pack­age of new laws that tight­ened rules on for­eign lob­by­ing and po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions, while broad­en­ing the def­i­ni­tion of trea­son and es­pi­onage.

The United States has pushed through a law, known as FIRRMA, which gives Wash­ing­ton new pow­ers to block cer­tain types of for­eign in­vest­ments.

The text of that leg­is­la­tion man­dates Trump to con­duct a “more ro­bust in­ter­na­tional out­reach ef­fort” to con­vince al­lies to adopt sim­i­lar pro­tec­tions.

Ear­lier this month, in a scathing at­tack on China’s for­eign ac­tiv­i­ties, U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence ac­cused Bei­jing of in­ter­fer­ing in the do­mes­tic arena by “re­ward­ing or co­erc­ing Amer­i­can busi­nesses, movie stu­dios, uni­ver­si­ties, think tanks, schol­ars, jour­nal­ists and lo­cal, state and fed­eral of­fi­cials.” Bei­jing has de­nied the charges.

“A new World”

The Ger­man govern­ment, which tight­ened its rules on for­eign in­vest­ments last year only to de­ter­mine months later, af­ter a fresh wave of Chi­nese ac­qui­si­tions, that they were still in­ad­e­quate, is poised to lower the thresh­old at which it can in­ter­vene.

Last year, Ber­lin qui­etly launched an in­ter-min­is­te­rial drive to as­sess the broad range of Chi­nese ac­tiv­i­ties in the coun­try. Govern­ment sources say that anal­y­sis is broadly com­plete and new pol­icy mea­sures could fol­low, al­though they say far-reach­ing steps like those taken by Aus­tralia are un­likely.

The U.S. of­fi­cial said the foiled takeover of Ger­man semi­con­duc­tor firm Aix­tron in 2016 had un­der­scored the need to build a broader coali­tion of coun­tries to share in­for­ma­tion and co­or­di­nate re­sponses to China.

Two years ago, the Ger­man govern­ment ap­proved a Chi­nese in­vest­ment fund’s ac­qui­si­tion of Aix­tron, only to re­verse course a month later when U.S. of­fi­cials raised se­cu­rity con­cerns that Ber­lin had over­looked.

The of­fi­cials who spoke with Reuters de­scribed a “flurry of con­sul­ta­tions” in re­cent months, with Wash­ing­ton driv­ing co­or­di­na­tion on the in­vest­ment side and Can­berra tak­ing a lead role in rais­ing aware­ness about po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

Talks have taken place be­tween diplo­mats, in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and heads of govern­ment, they said.

“We are liv­ing in a new world,” said a per­son from a Five Eyes coun­try who has trav­eled ex­ten­sively to other cap­i­tals over the past year to dis­cuss China’s for­eign ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The sud­den shock from au­thor­i­tar­ian regimes is prompt­ing closer co­or­di­na­tion and a real ex­pan­sion of in­tel­li­gence shar­ing,” this per­son said.

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