Alibaba accused of ‘possible espionage’ at European hub: FT

We know that there has been a lot of scrutiny over the fact that Chinese companies such as Alibaba have been making their presence felt in most parts of the world including Europe and it is seen that while the US has been coming down on China’s presence in the country, it is seen that they have a huge presence in Europe which is now coming under scrutiny from the authorities. It is reported by the Financial Times that the Belgian authorities are not very happy with how the data from Alibaba’s warehouse is handled, and they have been accused of “possible espionage” as well as “interference activities”.

As per a report, “Alibaba, which denies any wrongdoing, signed an agreement with Belgium in 2018 to open the hub in Liège, Europe’s fifth-largest cargo airport, plowing €100mn of investment into the ailing economy of the French-speaking Walloon region”. While the scrutiny should have gotten over as soon as the site was opened, it has not been the case as FT reports that “almost two years on from the site being opened, the Belgian State Security Service (VSSE) has continued monitoring Alibaba’s operations following intelligence assessments, said people familiar with the matter. One area of scrutiny includes the introduction of software systems that collate sensitive economic information”.

A professor said, “The main concern is that this platform, alongside a couple of other logistical platforms that the Chinese have been proposing to European countries, is giving them a lot of insights into supply chains and into eventual vulnerabilities,” and also mentioned that since Cainiao can access information, “Knowledge about important changes in consumption patterns and knowledge about the logistical chain is valuable for China as a country that tries to dominate the supply chain”. Cainiao said the data from its logistics hub in Liège was stored in servers located in Germany and operated by Alibaba Cloud and that the data provided insights for its operations. “Belgian authorities had hoped the commerce facilitated by Alibaba would help close the trade gap with China and boost the economy. But Belgium’s trade deficit widened from €3.7bn in 2021 to €9.1bn in 2022”, as per the report, which has also raised further doubts about their operations.

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