TEPSA has coordinated an in-depth analysis requested by SEDE Sub-Committee of the European Parliament. It is authored by Frank Jüris, a Researcher at the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS), Estonia. The study is entitled “Security implications of China-owned critical infrastructure in the European Union”.
China’s footprint in European critical assets has grown steadily over time, without any centralised mechanism that could give the European Union (EU) and Member State agencies visibility and scrutiny over projects of strategic significance for Europe’s defence and security. China’s footprint poses specific challenges to Europe’s efforts to protect its critical infrastructure. China’s party-led political system does not allow clear distinctions between commercial, political and military interests, often viewing Chinese state and private companies’ international activities as instruments helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) expand its influence in foreign countries and undermine geopolitical rivals. The CCP’s military-civil fusion (MCF) strategy incentivises civilian actors to contribute to the modernisation of the People Liberation Army (PLA) through technology transfer. Chinese companies’ access to EU critical infrastructure thus calls for an analysis of threats to Europe’s defence and security architecture. Using research with original Chinese-language sources, this paper analyses the involvement of China state-linked entities in selected critical sectors — ports, rare metals and undersea cables — to identify short-, medium- and long-term threats to the EU’s strategic sovereignty. These cases expose how entities linked to the Chinese party-state can gain access to and exert influence on assets that are vital to Europe’s security and defence, including transport infrastructure, critical resources and telecommunications networks. This research demonstrates that traditional approaches to infrastructure protection based on direct ownership are insufficient, since China’s party state can obtain access to critical infrastructure through indirect, equally effective channels. As these cases show, infrastructure protection mechanisms, whose codification and implementation remains incomplete, must be extended to be able to scrutinise the risks that China’s leverage over non-science investors and Chinese state-linked contractors pose to the EU’s critical infrastructure.