After the election, foreign countries expect a tougher German policy on China.
The election programs name problems - but do not suggest a revolution.
The USA in particular should be disappointed about this.
Berlin / Munich - Green Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock and FDP leader Christian Lindner agree that a tougher China policy is needed. CSU boss Markus Söder, on the other hand, warns against "teaching dogmatics" against China and against not looking at economic interests. At the so-called final round on Thursday evening * on ARD, foreign policy was actually at least briefly discussed - unlike in the three trialles of the top candidates for the Federal Chancellery. It seems that Germany is not really interested in other countries before the federal election *. But foreign countries are all the more interested in us: How will Germany position itself geopolitically in a new coalition government? A central question is: Will Germany continue the Chancellor Angela Merkel's * China policy?
“The election is being followed closely in Beijing and Washington,” says Noah Barkin, China expert at the US think tank Rhodium Group, who has been observing German policy towards the People's Republic for some time.
"Both know about the central role that Germany plays in the relations of the industrialized countries with China * - in questions of human rights and climate up to trade and technology."
China's experts do not expect any hostile China policy from Germany after the election
Ding Chun, Director of the Center for European Studies at the renowned Shanghai Fudan University, estimates that the greatest foreign policy challenge for the election winner will be dealing with the tense relations between China and the USA *: How will Germany position itself between the two in the future Giants? "A hostile China policy would cause great damage to the export-dependent German economy," Ding told the state newspaper
. But it is also unrealistic to expect Germany to side with China entirely.
Neither the CDU nor the SPD are a bad option for China, believes He Zhigao, a researcher at the Institute for European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
As a person, Scholz is friendlier to China than Laschet, He told
"But as a party, the CDU is friendlier, more business-oriented and less ideological."
Ding, who once met Scholz in person, described him as a "constant" leader.
He warned, however, that it could have negative effects on Sino-German relations if a Scholz government left foreign policy to the Greens because of their “obsession with human rights issues”.
China policy: USA expects stability
Logically, the Americans see things from the opposite point of view.
"Germany's attitude towards China has been 'change through trade' for years, but China's suppression of dissenting opinions at home and its muscle-building abroad have cast doubt on this strategy," commented the
New York Times
“The US has urged reluctant allies to take a tougher stance on China - but Germany under Angela Merkel has hesitated.
And that will not change under a new government led by your party or by the Social Democrats. "
Unlike Beijing, Washington is likely to be disappointed about this.
German China policy after the election: tougher line despite general consistency
Nevertheless, there is much to suggest that a new government, regardless of color, will adopt a somewhat tougher stance - even if the leading candidates for chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Armin Laschet (CDU) are largely in favor of continuity in foreign policy in the election campaign. According to a study by the Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies (Merics), almost all parties take a critical look at China. “The focus is on geostrategic challenges, market access conditions and the human rights situation,” writes study author Ariane Reimers. The accents differed, however: “While the CDU / CSU mainly emphasizes the foreign and security policy challenge that China poses, the Greens focus on the human rights situation on the one hand - and the need for a climate dialogue on the other.”All four potential government parties, the Union, SPD, Greens and FDP, are in favor of China policy having to run more strongly over Europe in the future.
The parties deal with the changed role of China in the world quite realistically. "The growing importance of China in the world means that a global response to the economic, ecological, social and political challenges of our time is hardly conceivable without Beijing," states the SPD election manifesto. "Conflicts of interests and values with China are increasing." The election manifesto of the CDU / CSU names China as “the greatest foreign and security policy challenge”. China has "the will and increasingly also the claim to power to shape and change the international order according to its own ideas." You have to react to that. The Greens and their candidate for Chancellor Annalena Baerbock advocate a “mixture of dialogue and hardship” * when dealing with China.
Parties in the election campaign: focus on human rights, especially among the SPD, Greens and FDP
When it comes to human rights *, “clear disagreements among the SPD, Greens and FDP can be seen,” writes Ariane Reimers from Merics.
The fact that the Greens and the FDP are largely in agreement here is shown by a joint article on the subject of the China-critical European MP Reinhard Bütikofer * from the Greens of the FDP Bundestag MP and Olaf in der Beek.
"There is not a word on the human rights situation in the program of the Union parties."
With Gyde Jensen, the FDP also provides the current chairwoman of the Bundestag's human rights committee.
Jensen has regularly been critical of the situation in Hong Kong * or Xinjiang, for example.
The CDU Chancellor Merkel had also campaigned for human rights over the years, but mostly behind the scenes. She always relied on dialogue with Beijing, even on difficult issues. Merkel was always concerned with both maintaining the thread of conversation with such an important country as the up-and-coming China and negotiating the best opportunities for the German economy. The economic dovetailing of the two countries increased rapidly during Merkel's 16 years as chancellor. In 2020, China was Germany's most important trading partner for the fifth time in a row, ahead of the Netherlands and the USA - with a trade volume of almost 213 billion euros. For many corporations, from car manufacturers to Siemens and BASF, China is one of the most important markets, if not the most important of all.Many German companies have factories and branches in the People's Republic.
Abroad, the greatest criticism was that Merkel sometimes went it alone because of these close economic ties, or pushed the other Europeans in a certain direction.
Abroad, it is taken for granted that it was Merkel in particular who was determined to push through the now rather controversial CAI * investment agreement between the EU and China at the end of 2020.
This is one of the reasons why all possible Merkel successors speak of a pan-European approach for the future.
China policy: important decisions are pending
Whoever will form the government: There are some decisions to be made in the near future: About the role of the Chinese telecommunications supplier Huawei in the German 5G network or how to deal with the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, for which some China critics have a diplomatic Demand a boycott. Business is about the security of supply chains, global technology standards or the position of German companies in the Chinese market.
Observer Noah Barkin expects “no revolution” after Merkel's withdrawal. The election is about how quickly and how far the line of future German policy towards China will harden. In China, He Zhigao believes: "In the post-Merkel era, German China policy may be value-oriented for a while, but will ultimately tend towards pragmatic economic cooperation." Economic relations have always been a stabilizing factor - with all political ups and downs . Barkin also notes that after the election is actually before the election: The presidential election will take place in France * in April 2022, incumbent Emmanuel Macron will probably have to face the right-wing populist Marine Le Pen. Barkin is certain:"Only when the dust has settled after both votes can a serious debate about the geopolitical positioning of Europe be possible."
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