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German Foreign Office prepares for further escalation in power struggle with China amid bitter dispute with Russia

By Max Biederbeck-Kettterer, Rüdiger Kiani-Kreß

Under Minister Annalena Baerbock, the German Foreign Ministry is preparing a further escalation in the power struggle against China amid a bitter dispute with Russia.

This is evidenced by excerpts from the draft for a new German China strategy, which is circulating in recent media reports.

According to the draft, the Foreign Ministry is pushing for steps that are officially intended merely to prevent dependence on the People’s Republic but are, in fact, aimed at reducing German industry’s business with China.

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If desired, it also allows imposing import bans on regions such as Xinjiang or Hong Kong.

At the same time, the draft paper calls for steps against Taiwan that will likely affect Beijing’s red lines.

, German Foreign Office prepares for further escalation in power struggle with China amid bitter dispute with Russia
Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) chats with Olaf Scholz. (Photo internet reproduction)

Last but not least, the Foreign Office makes cooperation with China conditional on Beijing submitting to German foreign policy and ceasing all cooperation with Russia – a hint to India and South Africa, for example, of what they would face if they cooperated with Berlin.

The consequences of an escalation of the conflict with China would considerably exceed the consequences of the economic war against Russia.

THE FOREIGN OFFICE DRAFT

The adoption of a German China strategy, the first ever specific China strategy by a German government, has already been set out in the coalition agreement between the SPD, Alliance 90/The Greens, and the FDP.

The Foreign Office was in charge of drafting it; it is now available and was reportedly passed on to the other federal ministries concerned with foreign policy aspects a few days ago.

It is now to be discussed and adopted by the federal government.

Publication of the paper is planned soon after the publication of the new National Security Strategy; however, an exact date has not yet been set.

Some apparently hope the paper could be publicly presented as early as the next Munich Security Conference (Feb. 17-19, 2023); others assume a later date, but still in the first half of 2023.

STRESS TESTS AND IMPORT FREEZES

If adopted in its current form, the strategy paper will have far-reaching consequences for the German economy.

The draft indeed states that “close economic integration between Germany and China”, as it has, in fact, long existed, is “still our goal”.

However, a whole series of measures are then laid down to significantly reduce business with China – officially to prevent any dependence on the People’s Republic.

For example, companies with major China businesses are to “conduct regular stress tests.” Also, “foreign investments by German and European companies in security-critical areas” are to be reviewed, i.e., if desired, they can also be prohibited.

The plan calls for “in-depth reviews” and clear restrictions on the state guarantees for investments and exports that have been customary up to now.

In addition, complete import stops from certain Chinese regions are to be possible – namely “if supply chains free of human rights violations cannot be ensured by other means”.

Chinese regions where Berlin regularly diagnoses human rights violations include Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.

Annalena Baerbock. (Photo internet reproduction)
Annalena Baerbock. (Photo internet reproduction)

COOPERATION ONLY WITH SUBMISSION

Baerbock’s draft for Germany’s new China strategy also envisions massive interference in the internal and external affairs of the People’s Republic.

For example, the paper announces a deepening of relations with Taiwan, which is part of China under international law.

It says Taiwan is to be integrated more strongly into international organizations, in open contradiction to current UN resolutions.

In addition, the Foreign Office is seeking an investment agreement between the EU and Taiwan.

This effectively calls into question Taiwan’s affiliation with China.

China’s President Xi Jinping made it clear only last Monday, on the occasion of his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Bali, that tampering with the status of Taiwan is a red line for Beijing.

Apart from that, the draft paper from the Foreign Office makes future cooperation with the People’s Republic dependent on Beijing submitting to Berlin’s ideas of an adequate foreign policy.

For example, it states that “China and Russia are moving ever closer together”; this is incompatible with cooperation with Germany.

This can also be understood as a warning to, for example, India, South Africa, or Saudi Arabia, which are also cooperating closely with Russia despite the Ukraine war.

IN SYSTEM COMPETITION

The Federal Foreign Office indeed claims in its draft strategy: “Our goal is not a new bloc confrontation.”

But this can be understood merely as a content-less protective assertion; after all, not only the economic and political steps envisaged in the paper but also several literal stipulations clearly aim at a new Cold War.

For example, the paper states that the intention is to maintain the previous classification of China as “partner, competitor and systemic rival” simultaneously: “The latter two aspects, however, are increasingly gaining weight.”

The Federal Foreign Office obviously sees Berlin and the EU as being exposed to “system rivalry” in southeastern Europe.

According to the paper, China has “in some cases significantly expanded its influence” there; it is now necessary to counter this with its own activities.

The same applies to Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. “We must not leave any strategic gaps in the competition between systems,” the Foreign Office demands.

FACED WITH A FAIT ACCOMPLI

Finally, the role that the Foreign Office attributes to the EU in matters of China policy in the future is remarkable.

Only recently, the European External Action Service had demanded in a strategy paper that the member states of the Union – Germany, as is well known, is one of them – “should refrain from isolated and uncoordinated initiatives” toward China “that could weaken our united stance.”

With its new China strategy, Berlin is now once again moving forward in an uncoordinated solo effort.

In its draft paper, the Foreign Office merely pledges to contact EU institutions before making more extensive arrangements with Beijing.

It also states, “we will continue to inform our EU partners regularly about the results of our bilateral meetings with China.”

There is, however, no mention of joint action. Thus, the EU and its 26 other member states are once again presented with a fait accompli by Germany.

DRAMATIC CONSEQUENCES

According to widespread opinion, the orientation toward an escalation in the power struggle against China is taking place even though its consequences considerably exceed those of the economic war against Russia.

For example, Germany was dependent on Russia primarily for energy raw materials.

German Foreign Office, Berlin. (Photo internet reproduction)
German Foreign Office, Berlin. (Photo internet reproduction)

Today, China is a supplier of indispensable raw materials such as rare earths and processed lithium, hardly replaceable high-tech products, and cheap intermediate products for German industry.

The automotive industry generates about one-third of its sales in China.

Should a decoupling between the West and the People’s Republic occur, then a spin-off of the Chinese offshoots of some German corporations is probably imminent.

Currently, for example, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is being quoted as warning that it is quite conceivable that, in the event of an unchecked escalation of the conflict with Beijing, Western companies would have to write off their investments in China in the same way as they are currently writing off their investments in Russia.

German companies’ investments in the People’s Republic are now approaching 100 billion euros

This post was published first here.

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