Estonia warns of “quiet world dominated by Beijing”

In its annual report released today, the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service paints a clear picture of China’s attempts to silence criticism and dominate key technologies in Estonia and other democracies.

Why it matters: The small Baltic state has decades of experience in facing Russia authoritarian invasion. China’s actions in Estonia are now sounding similar alarms.

Driving the news: The report comes a week after Estonia and five other countries snub Beijing sending lower-ranking ministers, instead of presidents or prime ministers, to the 17 + 1 summit convened by Chinese officials.

What the report says: “Implementing China’s foreign policy doctrine or creating a ‘community of common destiny’ will lead to a quiet world dominated by Beijing. In the face of growing confrontation with the West, China’s main objective is to create a divide between the United States and Europe. ”

  • The section of the China report highlights Beijing’s growing ability to conduct influence operations in the West through economic leverage, oversight of Chinese citizens abroad and cultivation of local elites.
  • The report also warns that China’s leadership “has a clear goal of making the world dependent on Chinese technology”, mentioning the 5G maker Huawei and the BeiDou navigation system.

Background: Russia has always been Estonia’s biggest security concern, especially the threat of military invasion. China does not pose a military threat to Estonia. But over the course of the 2010s, Estonia became increasingly cautious about Beijing’s use of economic coercion for geopolitical purposes, its cyber espionage and its growing partnership with Russia. This year’s foreign intelligence report uses the toughest language yet.

  • The country’s biggest concern is the “dismantling of the world order that allowed Estonia to regain its independence 30 years ago, and also the prosperity and development that we have participated in over the past 30 years,” said Frank Jüris, a researcher at the Institute for Foreign Policy of Estonia at the International Defense and Security Center, located in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

The big picture: Estonia, like the Czech Republic, is more outspoken in its criticism of China than large European countries like Germany and France.

  • “This is not the first time that small European states have pioneered, leading in the right direction,” said Jüris. “It was mainly the small European states that had experience with an aggressive Russia that alerted other European states to the Russian regime.”

Go deeper: Increasing number of countries issue espionage warnings in China