Illustration photo – Director of the Security Information Service (BIS) Michal Koudelka (pictured on October 21, 2019).
Prague – China is a threat to security and stability in Europe, even as the largest producer of medicines. This was stated by the director of the Security Information Service (BIS), Michal Koudelka, at today's conference in the House of Representatives on relations with China in the past decade. Chinese activities represent a risk for the Czech Republic, so they must be effectively countered and the warnings of intelligence services must not be underestimated, he said. According to him, the security risks coming from China are more insidious than those from Russia. It is necessary to communicate with Beijing, but you cannot let the rules of communication be imposed, which has often happened in the past, says the head of the civilian counterintelligence.
Koudelka said that China poses a threat to European security and stability not only through the massive spread of disinformation, but also as the largest producer of medicines. “We can't even imagine what would happen if China stopped the production of medicines for Europe as a result of some international crisis or conflict,” said Koudelka. According to him, one of the main reasons for the current complicated availability of drugs is the earlier transfer of production to China. Due to the increase in covid-19 disease in China, consumption increased and production decreased, he said.
“Security risks for the Czech Republic coming from China are more insidious than risks coming from, say, the Russian Federation,” says Koudelka. He added that earlier intelligence warnings about Russia were often downplayed. “Please listen to us now when we say that Chinese activities pose a risk to the Czech Republic and we must be prepared and determined to effectively counter them,” the BIS director emphasized.
According to him, the international reputation and status of the Czech Republic does not depend on how successful Czech companies are in China, but on what values the Czech Republic upholds and represents. According to him, China is an important player and it is necessary to communicate with it. “We must not (but) jeopardize our security and resign ourselves to the moral values that make us strong,” the BIS director pointed out.
Koudelka also warned against Chinese espionage, according to him, China's intelligence capabilities have improved over the years. “Today we are facing an adversary with enormous manpower, cutting-edge technology and unlimited financial resources,” he said. According to Koudelka, pro-Chinese entities have successfully influenced public opinion to such an extent that the illusion persists in the Czech environment that China is one of the main Czech economic partners.
The head of the National Office for Cybernetic and Information Security (NÚKIB) Lukáš Kintr warned before the Chinese network TikTok, which has two million users in the Czech Republic. “This is an excessive collection of data, some of which has nothing to do with the functioning of the application,” Kintr pointed out.
According to Koudelka, the increase in risks associated with China began with the so-called restart of Czech-Chinese relations in autumn 2013, i.e. after Miloš Zeman took office as president. According to the head of the BIS, the visit of Senate President Miloš Vystrčil (ODS) to Taiwan in 2020 represented a turning point in relations. Now China has understood that the situation in the Czech Republic has changed, he added.
According to John Garnaut, who was adviser to the Australian prime minister, a change in attitude towards China can be seen after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. The expert said that China is on Russia's side in it. “If they openly support Moscow, there will be military armament, then we can expect a political, hybrid and economic war with this country,” says Garnaut.
Intelligence services have long drawn attention to China's activities that go against the interests of the Czech Republic. BIS in wrote in its annual report for 2021 that China represents a growing complex intelligence threat. In connection with the effort to obtain advanced technologies in the Czech Republic, it warned against Chinese acquisitions of Czech companies and against efforts to transfer production to China. The Chinese Embassy in Prague marked the information from the BIS annual report for unwarranted criticism.