A senior German government official suppressed a 2018 intelligence report on China’s influence in Germany for fear of damaging business relationships between the two countries, Axios reported on Tuesday.
The report detailed China’s growing attempts to influence German society, business, and politics, two U.S. intelligence officials said. However, a high-ranking official moved to prevent the report from being disseminated throughout the German government. Only small number of senior officials have read the report, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“As a matter of principle, the German government does not comment on matters concerning intelligence findings or activities of the intelligence services,” a government spokesperson told Axios.
The news comes after Chancellor Merkel in September refused to ban Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from operating on 5G networks in the country, bucking U.S. pressure to block the company. The U.S. considers Huawei a threat to national security, contending that the Chinese government can use Huawei networks to conduct espionage operations.
The U.K. banned Huawei in July after a U.S. pressure campaign, while France has tightened controls on its 5G networks that prevent Huawei from operating freely.
German businesses have invested heavily in partnerships with China. Automaker Volkswagen currently operates a factory in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province, where China is conducting a campaign of mass imprisonment and indoctrination of Muslims in detention camps. Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess claimed in 2019 that he was “not aware” of the existence of the camps.