Merkel’s successor may keep a distance from China

Complicated relationship – this term is often used by experts, journalists and politicians to express an opinion on China-Germany relations. Berlin acts as the custodian of European values ​​in international relations, while maintaining excellent business relations with the increasingly sword-wielding Asian country. Last year, German exports to China of around € 100 billion accounted for more than half of European Union exports. But Volkswagen, for example, maintains a plant in Xinjiang Province, which has been reported to be oppressed by the Uyghurs.

In recent years, the German government has been trying to balance political and economic relations, but the strategy can hardly be sustained: the Western world is drifting deeper and deeper into conflict with China, which is also sniffing out business relations.

In this situation, the German government is forced to compromise. Of greater prominence among these was an October case, it turned out that the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament

This was reported by the Axios news portal in Washington. According to a 2018 report, Chinese interests affect the German government and business sector on several levels. Also, according to Washington sources, a senior German official stopped distributing the document, but before that, Chancellor Angela Merkel also read the material. However, the case is confusing, the details of the report are unknown and the German government and intelligence have not responded to the press inquiry.

Barbara Pongratz of the Merics Research Institute in Berlin told Index. According to the expert on German-Chinese relations, although Axios’ information should be treated with caution, it may be true in part of the story. Pongratz said the background to the case may be a debate that unfolded in China in 2018. The German government is trying to overshadow the work of intelligence, but sometimes partial information comes to light.

The expert told our paper.

The debate in public discourse, the balance between economic and political interests, also divides the German government.

Barbara Pongratz described the internal conflict in Berlin. A Merics researcher said China-friendly institutions are also important bases for the tangled conflict.

This year saw the launch of the China-Brücke, or Beijing-Sympathetic Elite Club, which brings together members of politics and business as the China-Bridge. Barbara Pongratz points out that this gathering is led by Hans-Peter Friedrich, a veteran politician of the Bavarian Christian Social Union.

As a former interior minister in the Merkel government and vice-president of the Bundestag, Friedrich is an influential politician who argues strongly for good relations with China. For example, at the opening of the China Bridge Elite Club Friedrich argued that the XXI. century, China will be Germany’s most important relationship, not only in the economy but also in geopolitics.

– says the China expert to the Index. Merkel’s term expires next year, and speculation has already begun about her successor. Although the press has so far written about a number of candidates, the names cast so far point more to a breakup: the three Christian Democratic party presidential and chancellor candidates – Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen – and the Social Democrat prime minister-designate Olaf Scholz policy.

Cover image: Chinese Prime Minister Li Ko-chiang (j) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a meeting at the Great People’s Hall in Beijing on September 6, 2019. MTI / EPA / Clemens Bilan

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