In the 10 years that Peter Wennink has run ASML Holding NV, China has gone from a rounding error to the chip-technology company’s third-biggest market. After new revelations about data theft linked to the country, questions are now mounting over the risks associated with that growth.

ASML’s chief executive officer has been steadfast in defending the company’s business there. Even after ASML’s own lawyers argued in court that ex-employees stole intellectual property as part of "a plot to get technology for the Chinese government,” the Dutch company publicly downplayed the issue. It suggested it wasn’t a victim of espionage but of rogue Silicon Valley staffers "who had broken the law to enrich themselves.”

Amid new efforts by the U.S. and its allies to thwart China’s access to semiconductor technology, the disclosure on Wednesday that a former employee took technical information could spark even tighter controls on ASML. Caught in the middle of the escalating political tensions, Wennink has tried to protect a key source of growth, arguing that clamping down could eventually push Beijing to develop its own advanced chipmaking machines.