In view of China’s aggressive striving for world power, Germany is increasingly distancing itself from the leadership in Beijing. This is shown both by the first draft of a joint China strategy, which the Federal Foreign Office sent to the other federal ministries, and by surprisingly clear statements by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The People’s Republic is taking increasingly authoritarian action against all opponents and is also pursuing a policy along the lines of “China make you independent of the world – and make the world dependent on China,” said Steinmeier during a visit to New York. But that was “a game we don’t want to play”.
The thoughts on the China strategy and the words of the Federal President fit into a changed view of the People’s Republic, which also became clear during the recent trips to Asia by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens). Both rejected considerations, Germany to be decoupled from China because of the growing system rivalry and different values. However, they do want to reduce economic dependency in order to make politics and companies in the Federal Republic less susceptible to blackmail.
In the draft of the China strategy, the Federal Foreign Office writes that the Chinese leadership “considers its political system to be superior and its ‘core interests’ not to be questioned”. She invests heavily in the worldwide dissemination of her political narrative, pursues an increasingly aggressive foreign policy and uses economic dependencies to achieve political goals. “China is changing – our dealings with China must also change,” says the 59-page paper that is available to SZ.
In terms of economic policy in particular, the federal government faces a dilemma. On the one hand, the People’s Republic is probably the most attractive market in the world with 1.4 billion possible customers and still very favorable production conditions for German companies. On the other hand, companies are increasingly dependent on important raw materials, primary products and the country’s sales markets. To counter all this, the Federal Foreign Office wants to reduce import and export dependencies, protect companies from critical sectors from foreign takeovers and stop the outflow of high-tech knowledge in areas such as telecommunications, artificial intelligence and semiconductors.
According to the text of the speech, Steinmeier said the world had changed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For Germany, this means saying goodbye to “old patterns of thought and hopes”. “We have to reduce one-sided dependencies, and that applies not only to Russia, but also – and even more so – to China,” said the Federal President, who was awarded the Henry Kissinger Prize in New York. It’s not about “deglobalization or even naive efforts towards self-sufficiency”. Rather, one must expand one’s own network with the world.