| BERLIN, July 6
BERLIN, July 6 A German intelligence chief
warned, as Chancellor Angela Merkel embarks on her latest visit
to China, that some firms in Europe's biggest economy face a
growing threat from industrial espionage by Chinese government
agencies with huge resources.
"Many German Mittelstand companies are easy prey,"
Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV domestic intelligence
agency, told a Sunday newspaper, referring to the small and
medium-sized family firms that are the backbone of the economy.
"They often don't really know what their crown jewels are or
what the other side is interested in," he told Welt am Sonntag.
"They are up against very powerful adversaries. The Chinese
technical intelligence agency alone has over 100,000 employees,"
Maassen said, in an excerpt of an interview to be published on
Sunday, when Merkel begins her seventh trip to China.
Beijing rejects U.S. charges it uses cyber espionage to
acquire technology to modernise its military.
The former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has
leaked documents that purportedly show that the U.S. National
Security Agency has spied on Chinese companies such as Huawei
Trade between Germany and China has been worth about 140
billion euros ($190 billion) per year for the past three years
but in the first quarter of this year, German exports to China
surged by 9.8 percent, according to one German trade
organisation, the GTAI.
The chancellor is taking a business delegation along with
her and deals may include a joint venture between Lufthansa
and Air China, according to the media.
The chief executive of German auto giant Volkswagen
, Martin Winterkorn, told a conference in Berlin this
week that China had proved "a recipe for stability".
Merkel will visit the city of Chengdu on Sunday and hold
talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Monday.
She may also meet civil rights groups.
($1 = 0.7331 Euros)
(Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Sophie Hares)