Nations from around the world have been teaming up to share classified intelligence and counter Chinese influence, Reuters has reported.
The Five Eyes alliance – Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – has joined nations including Japan, Germany and occasionally France to exchange classified information on China’s foreign activities since the beginning of 2018, the news agency said.
Government officials told Reuters that the talks were “below the radar,” but that there had been a “flurry of consultations” in recent months, saying that the US had taken the lead on investment matters and Australia had been primarily concerned with political interference.
China has been the main focus, but Russia has also been the subject of discussions, said sources.
The governments involved declined to comment specifically on the report.
“Consultations with our allies, with like-minded partners, on how to respond to China’s assertive international strategy have been frequent and are gathering momentum,” a US official told Reuters. “What might have started as ad hoc discussions are now leading to more detailed consultations on best practices and further opportunities for cooperation.”
In response to the report, Lu Kang, a spokesman at China’s foreign ministry, said on Friday that the US was at fault.
“Someone in the US keeps trying to slander and frame China by making up stories on hearsay evidence,” he said. “We urge the US to stop defaming China by playing up the so-called cyber espionage and stop such words and acts that undermine China’s interest and China-US ties.”
With China embroiled in a trade war with the US, Beijing has tried to rally its allies and potential allies.
But countries have increasingly become concerned about China’s growing influence.
And Germany has been concerned about Chinese influence, especially in its tech and manufacturing sector, since a Chinese takeover of robotics firm Kuka in 2016. In August it vetoed a Chinese takeover of a German aerospace and nuclear tech manufacturer.
These moves have hurt China, whose global outbound direct investment dropped in 2017 for the first time since 2002, according to data compiled by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Additional reporting by Sarah Zheng