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Belgian intelligence is reportedly monitoring operations at a logistics hub run by Chinese tech giant Alibaba, based on concerns the company could be using software to collect sensitive economic data.

The country’s State Security Service (VSSE) said it was attempting to “detect and fight against possible espionage and/or interference activities carried out by Chinese entities including Alibaba,” as first reported by the Financial Times.

Alibaba, which denied any wrongdoing to the FT, opened the logistics hub at the cargo airport in Liège — one of the largest such airports in Europe — in 2018, and has invested more than €100 million ($105 million) into the region’s economy.

The VSSE’s statement warned that Alibaba’s presence constituted “a point of attention” due to China’s National Intelligence Law, which permits Beijing to compel any Chinese persons or businesses to assist the country’s intelligence agencies.

“China has the intent and capacity to use this data for non-commercial purposes,” the VSSE said.

In the agency’s annual report, it warned: “Our economic activities are closely intertwined with China – even in strategic sectors. This is one of the reasons why, in recent years, the VSSE has kept a close eye on China’s efforts, openly and behind the scenes, to promote its interests in our country.”

As reported by the FT, one of the espionage concerns relates to Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform (EWTP) — software that could potentially be used to provide Chia with insights into Western supply chains and vulnerabilities, as explained by Jonathan Holslag, a professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

“Knowledge about important changes in consumption patterns and knowledge about the logistical chain is valuable for China as a country that tries to dominate the supply chain,” Holslag told the newspaper.

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Alexander Martin is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.

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