Will the Netherlands keep Chinese students away from sensitive tech?

The Dutch government talks about keeping Chinese university students away from important and sensitive technologies. Although China was not directly mentioned, everything seems to indicate that the legislation is due to a fear of Chinese spies.

What is the cause of this?

China is currently still years behind the weapons of the West. This is because only companies in the West can make certain chips. Until a few years ago, ASML, one of the world’s best chip builders, still distributed to all countries. There was even international cooperation between all kinds of countries, including China, to make new technological progress as quickly as possible.

But when Mark Rutte went to America a few weeks ago and met Joe Biden there, the agreement was made not to supply any new chips to China. ASML has since been banned from supplying to China. China’s response to this is to create divisions between Europe and the United States. According to China, the United States is an ‘aggressor’ that determines everything for the Netherlands. This while the Netherlands always wants to do business with everyone.

Espionage in the Netherlands

In 2019 there was already hundreds of millions in damage at the chip company ASML. A number of ASML’s Chinese employees, who held senior positions in the Research and Development department, turned out to have direct connections with the Chinese ministry. For years, the employees have forwarded data, source codes and secret user manuals to ASML competitor XTAL, as a result of which ASML has lost several huge customers.

The new rule has made the Dutch government even more afraid of espionage in the country. By excluding China from the new chips, obtaining information has become even more valuable to the Chinese government.

Chinese students at Dutch universities

In China, students going on exchange can get a scholarship if they pledge allegiance to the Communist Party of China (CCP). Subsequently, the students must report to the Chinese embassy in the country where they will be studying and must return within 2 years after graduation. In recent years, this scholarship, the China Scholarship Council, has already caused universities to refuse Chinese exchange students out of their own concern. China would see universities as the best alternative to spy, after companies like ASML.

That is why the Dutch Ministry of Education is currently working on a law that states that universities must carefully screen all applications from students, but also from researchers. This applies to students and researchers from all countries outside the EU. With this, the Netherlands is trying to prevent spies from outside the EU coming into contact with sensitive projects that are sometimes carried out at universities. It is expected that the Ministry will have completed the law sometime at the end of this year, after which it will be submitted to the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives will then determine whether this will become a real law.

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