Brussels has been rocked by a spy scandal.
Huge if true, as the saying goes.
But why would the Chinese have any interest in the inner workings of the EU?
The following is a transcript of a meeting between a Chinese government handler — let’s call him Mr. A — and a senior EU official — Mr. B (both, with crushing inevitability, men).
POLITICO’s high-cost lawyers — Dewey, Cheatem & Howe — would like to make it clear that this exchange didn’t actually take place.
The scene: A bench in Parc du Cinquantenaire.
Mr A: Thanks for the documents, but you didn’t need to write everything in code.
Mr B: It’s not in code.
Mr A: This is how you people speak? So when you talked about a security toolbox…
Mr B: You didn’t need to bring spanners.
Mr A: Oh. There’s a lot to unpack here and I’m sure Beijing will be very interested. The Conference on the Future of Europe, for starters. Sounds big. Who’s running the show?
Mr B: Verhofstadt.
Mr A: And they say the Communist Party has a lack of new names at the top! Is it a radical reshaping of Europe in the face of increasing pressure from mighty China?
Mr B: You bet it is.
Mr A: And how will you go about it?
Mr B: We’re thinking of a “conference plenary,” a “steering committee,” and an “executive board.”
Mr A: (sighs)
Mr B: Well if that doesn’t impress you, how about the Just Transition Fund?
Mr A: That’s just three random words. What does it mean?
Mr B: It’s a fund to help countries that use polluting forms of energy such as coal shift to cleaner technologies.
Mr A: But we love coal in China. That sounds awful.
Mr B: It’s connected to the Green Deal.
Mr A: Also sounds awful. Only of interest if there’s a lot of money involved.
Mr B: There is. €1 trillion!
Mr A: Wow, that is impressive. I’m sure my bosses will be very interested. You actually have €1 trillion?
Mr B: Not as such. We have €7.5 billion (maybe).
Mr A: Sounds like a pyramid scheme. You’re wasting my time here. What’s comitology? An elaborate attempt to use the power of comets to conquer the world?
Mr B: Not exactly.
Mr A: Do you have the blueprints I asked for on the EU Mars project? Our ministry of state security is especially keen not to be beaten to the Red Planet.
Mr B: Sure. Here you go. This is pure gold I’m giving you: The EU’s top intelligence.
Mr A: (leafing through). Standardized measurement of field areas, identification of crop types, geolocation of landscape features and assessment of environmental impacts? What is this rubbish?
Mr B: Sssssh, not so loud. This is the real deal: The EU’s Monitoring Agricultural ResourceS file — Mars. I think they’ll make me a general in Beijing after this.
Mr A: Re-education camp feels more likely. Now let’s get serious. Huawei wants in on Europe’s 5G networks. What are the chances?
Mr B: It’s not looking great. Our cyber guys reckon there should be partial bans on high risk suppliers. Looks like we might stay European.
Mr A: You are of absolutely no use to me, or the People’s Republic.
Mr B: If I’m honest, I thought this spy lark would be a bit more exciting. A bit more James Bond.
Mr A: Get yourself a black turtleneck. I hear they are all the rage these days (walks off).