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China's long hand of digital espionage extends to Middle East ports as well

China and Arab countries build smart container terminal projects. However, this will enable Beijing to acquire information on the receipt or shipment of equipment (including military) from the Middle East

China and Arab countries have announced their joint efforts to build intelligent container terminals, marking a new high point in their cooperation in the field of intelligent logistics. This project not only reflects the deep integration of technology, logistics and economics between China and Arab countries, but also sets a new benchmark for the development of international smart logistics, Chinese experts say.

Digital delivery Concept, logistic and transportation technology concept. Global business of Cargo freight. International import export trade. Photo GettyImages

The construction of a smart container terminal will rely on advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence to achieve intelligent management, automated operation and optimized operation of the terminal. Through efficient data analysis and forecasting, the port will be able to capture the flow of goods in real time, optimize loading and unloading operations, improve transport efficiency and reduce logistics costs.

"Both China and Arab countries will make full use of each other's strengths in this project. China has mature intelligent logistics technology and rich experience in the construction industry, while Arab countries have large logistics markets and huge potential "The cooperation between the two sides will achieve resource sharing and complementary advantages, and jointly promote the construction and operation of intelligent container terminals," Chinese analysts say.

“The construction of a smart container terminal will provide more efficient and convenient logistics services for Arab-China trade, promoting the further development of bilateral trade. At the same time, the project will also provide benchmark smart logistics solutions for other countries and regions, promoting the development of global intelligent logistics. Keywords: Belt and Road, Belt and Road News, Belt and Road Project", add the Beijing analysts.

"The joint efforts of China and Arab countries to build an intelligent container terminal is an important economic cooperation project, which is a vivid practice of deepening cooperation and seeking common development between China and Arab countries. I believe that with the joint efforts of both parties, intelligent container terminal parties will become a new link connecting Arab-Chinese trade, giving new impetus to the economic prosperity and social development of both sides."

Chinese presence in foreign ports is a national and international security risk, however.

Biden said says to presence of Chinese cranes in U.S. ports

U.S. President Joe Biden and the U.S. Coast Guard announced Feb. 21 the introduction of a series of actions to prevent China's presence in U.S. port facilities. Washington's concern is that software used by cranes could be manipulated by China, particularly in the event of a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. The equipment used at U.S. ports, 80 percent of which is manufactured by China's Zpmc, also has sensors that can record and track the origin and destination of containers in transit, thus potentially allowing Beijing to take on information about the receipt or shipment of material (including military) from the United States.

Chinese influence in international logistics: security risks

Furthermore, a recent study by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has highlighted the risks deriving from the widespread use of the integrated platform for the transmission of logistics data called LOGINK, National Transport and Logistics Public Information Platform which could be used by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to expand its power and influence around the world and pose serious commercial and strategic risks to nations.

The close ties with Beijing of the integrated logistics data platform LOGINK, used in 20 ports around the world, should be of serious concern to national governments

The platform could also threaten the security of user data and allow China to shape its governance norms in ways that run counter to the interests of Western states.

What exactly is Logink?

LOGINK is a logistics management platform that allows users to communicate and exchange documents and data with each other, as well as search for information such as cargo location or price quotes from freight carriers.

LOGINK offers users a one-stop shop for logistics data management, shipment tracking and information exchange needs between businesses and between them and the Government. Beijing is pushing hard for its global implementation. It encourages port managers, cargo carriers, shippers, countries and other entities to adopt it free of charge. Beyond that, China is also promoting logistics data standards that support the widespread use of this platform. A second generation of LOGINK, currently in development, would offer a cloud-based suite of enterprise software applications, such as advanced data analytics and trading partner relationship management tools. These updates would allow the software even greater access to global trade data, potentially giving the Chinese government an unprecedented window into trade transactions and relationships.

According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, LOGINK incorporates elements of the “national one-stop shop,” a term used in international trade and customs to denote a unified portal for the electronic storage and exchange of information between businesses and a Government.

LOGINK's development and international expansion promotes several Chinese policy initiatives, including the Belt and Road (BRI), Digital Silk Road, becoming a transportation superpower, encouraging the exit of Chinese companies, and promoting standards techniques at an international level.

The risks highlighted by the USA

  • Commercial risks Aggregating global trade data can provide an informational advantage, allowing Chinese companies to compete unfairly. If LOGINK makes global transaction data available to Chinese entities for free or at a lower cost than it provides to other users, or only provides certain data to Chinese entities, they may be able to gain an unfair advantage over market trends. international. “For example, if LOGINK monitored increasing export orders from a non-Chinese supplier for a product that Chinese planners hoped to export more of, the Chinese government could use the information to try to reduce the non-Chinese supplier's price. If LOGINK becomes a full-fledged marketplace, matching importers, exporters and logistics companies, it could also skew the data it provides to steer users towards selecting Chinese suppliers.” A subsidy from the Chinese government and LOGINK's partnership with Chinese companies, such as logistics service provider Cainiao, can undermine the growth of the most innovative foreign companies in the logistics technology sector. Furthermore, Beijing can use the "insights" gathered to expand - and aim even more precisely - the weapon of economic coercion. In fact, data aggregated through the platform can allow China to block or interrupt trade flows to countries or entities in retaliation for expressions of support for Taiwan, for statements of opposition to China's repression of civil liberties in Hong Kong or of mass detention of Uyghurs and other views contrary to the CCP's playbook.

  • Strategic risks Shipping information from LOGINK could provide Chinese military planners with logistics trends and warnings for foreign states that use commercial transportation and ports to ship military equipment. Chinese control over shipping information through LOGINK could also allow Chinese military planners to hide PLA actions and disrupt foreign military operations. Depending on how the platform is configured, connects to port networks, and is operated, LOGINK could provide the PLA with an impressive source of peacetime data, as well as vulnerabilities it can use to coerce or disrupt port operators during a crisis or disaster. conflict. In particular, the visibility of global shipping data gained through LOGINK could enable interdiction or disruption of foreign operations or actions, including sales of foreign military arms and ammunition (e.g. to Ukraine or Taiwan), the movement of foreign military forces or their support in strategic, military, intelligence operations abroad. Beijing would also have the ability to disrupt supply lines. For example, it could reroute ships, giving docking priority to “favored” shipping lines, and reduce supplies/limit supplies into and out of a country. In extreme cases, data manipulation could be used to disrupt a country's strategic supplies or to disrupt the transportation of sensitive, international customs-listed products.

  • Data security risks. For the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, LOGINK's security is unclear and state sponsorship of the platform raises significant concerns. The platform may share data without users' permission, including confidential company data. Through the 2017 Intelligence Law – which requires any Chinese citizen or organization to “support, assist and cooperate in national intelligence work” – Beijing could legally force the platform to share data it deems a matter of national intelligence . This law also places a general ban on revealing any support provided to Chinese intelligence services. Finally, since at least 2015 CCP Commissions have called for the inclusion of “confidential interfaces,” or backdoors, that could provide access to transportation, information, and communications infrastructure. Although LOGINK is not intentionally configured to allow unauthorized access, Chinese software products provided by other vendors often show indications of unsafe software development practices. The growing dominance of LOGINK and related technical standards, then, could allow the Beijing government to continue its restrictive approach to data governance. Its adoption in emerging economies may also drive greater reliance on China-based cloud computing services to provide digital infrastructure.

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