China Urges Netherlands Not to Abuse Export Control Measures

China’s Ministry of Commerce said that the Netherlands should not hinder bilateral cooperation in the semiconductor industry and not abuse export control measures. The ministry added that it supports “open international trade and the free movement of technology” and called on both countries to adhere to market principles, respect the spirit of contract and work to safeguard global industrial and supply chains and the shared interests of the two countries companies.

The Dutch government on Friday announced new restrictions on exports of some semiconductor equipment, boosting a U.S.-led drive to curb supplies from China. It cited national security concerns in imposing the restrictions, which apply to equipment such as deep ultraviolet (DUV) and extreme UV (EUV) lithography machines, widely used by chipmakers to produce computer chips. The move was widely seen as a response to pressure from the United States.

It is one thing for EU member states to impose technology blocks against Russia in the context of sanctions regimes, but quite another to actively leverage export controls to achieve such strategic goals against a trading partner like China. This is why a broader EU framework for using strategic export control tools is needed, including a clear policy underpinning China and economic security to guide such decisions.

A new era of strategic export control is unfolding, and the EU should start drawing its red lines in technology engagement with Beijing and upgrading its toolbox to tackle these challenges. Ideally, this should include a review of existing multilateral export control regimes to ensure they are adequately aligned with EU-wide security interests and an assessment of the need for new fallback mechanisms.

In addition to strengthening its technology engagement with China, the EU should also reassess its approach to global trade agreements to be better prepared for future integrated economic strategies from non-European powers that will seek to bend the world economy around them. This will require the EU to set its priorities for trade agreements and ensure it reaches its negotiating positions based on its long-term national interest.

Finally, the EU must develop an effective communication strategy with Chinese partners. This will require a deep understanding of Chinese cultural values and communicative characteristics, such as power distance and hierarchical relations, and the importance of relationships built on mutual benefit and trust. Such an approach is essential to avoid politicizing trade and tech issues, disrupting regular cooperation, destabilizing global industrial and supply chains, and damaging the reputation of the EU as a supporter of open international trade. Ultimately, this will help the EU avoid being caught up in integrated economic strategies that are out to shape the world economy beyond recognition. This is a significant challenge, but it is necessary to preserve Europe’s strategic independence in a new era of global competition. Mao Ning is the senior director of the European Centre for Industrial Cooperation, a think tank based in Brussels.

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