Germany’s Dangerous (Economic) Entanglements: Chinese Edition | National Review

Germany’s Dangerous (Economic) Entanglements: Chinese Edition | National Review

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a news conference at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, December 10, 2021. (Johanna Geron/Reuters)

That Germany’s increasing reliance on natural gas from Russia (a reliance that, one way or another, will be boosted further by the shuttering of three nuclear power stations at the end of December) may limit the extent to which Germany will be prepared to push back against Vladimir Putin has, rightly, been a concern for years.

But what about Germany’s dependence on China?

Katja Hoyer, writing in The Spectator:

Germany’s new chancellor Olaf Scholz has taken captaincy of a ship on a course to nowhere in particular. He is beginning to find out just how difficult it is to steer his predecessor’s middle course between China and the West. Sooner rather than later, some difficult decisions will have to be made as their political world drifts too far apart to be navigated in tandem from Berlin. . . .

Admittedly, this dilemma is not of Scholz’s making. Over the course of Merkel’s chancellorship, trade ties between Germany and China have become so close that they are now very difficult to untangle. Imports from China doubled and exports to it nearly tripled over the last 12 years. At a trade volume of €213 billion (£180 billion) last year, China was Germany’s biggest trading partner for the fifth year in succession…

Despite China’s appalling human rights record and its expansionist policy towards Hong Kong and Taiwan, Germany’s new chancellor is happy to continue Merkel’s work in cosying up to China. In his first telephone conversation with Xi, Scholz failed to press him on any problematic issues; instead he assured him that ‘Germany wanted to continue to work with China in a spirit of mutual respect and trust.’ Diplomatic insiders claim that Scholz reassured Xi of a continuation of Merkelian policy even before he officially took over as chancellor. He is said to have promised to work towards lifting the suspension of the EU-China [trade] deal. [Progress towards its ratification was halted after objections in the European Parliament.]

. . . It isn’t only political considerations that have shaped Scholz’s China-friendly approach. Germany’s automobile and machinery industries combined account for well over half of Germany’s exports to China; this surely explains why many German business leaders in these areas have nothing but praise for China. Siemens boss Roland Busch has recently called for a ‘respectful exchange’ with the People’s Republic which ‘has every right to be confident. In the last 20 years it pulled one billion people out of poverty and established a veritable middle class.’ Politicians who represent regions with strong economic ties to Beijing, like the Liberal Hans-Ulrich Rülke in Baden-Württemberg, agree that the new government ‘must not forget what an important economic and trading partner the People’s Republic of China is.’

As Hoyer goes on to point out, however, Germany’s Greens (one of the three parties in the country’s new coalition government) have been much more critical of China than has the chancellor. The (Green) foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, opposes an unfreezing of the ratification process for the EU–China deal and has also called for a ban on goods made by forced labor.


Will she get her way? Scholz’s solution to the conflict with his coalition partner is to dress up deepening ties with China as a Green Deal. He wants to work with China and the G7, of which Germany holds the presidency for 2022, to promote Green growth. Business leaders have joined in the chorus and even suggested that an end to Germany’s efforts to go carbon neutral was nigh if the country lost its imports of solar panels from China. Given that China is responsible for nearly a third of global emissions and has tied limits to environmental commitments directly to economic growth, this explanation won’t wash with the Greens.

To be fair, Scholz is borrowing a play already tried by John Kerry, although in Kerry’s case, economic self-interest was not the driving factor — if anything, rather the opposite.

The New York Post:

US special climate envoy John Kerry sidestepped a question about China’s use of slave labor during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference on Wednesday, saying the issue was “not my lane.”

Kerry was responding to a query from a reporter who asked the former secretary of state if he had mentioned human rights issues — including Beijing’s “use of forced labor in Xinjiang for building solar panels” — during recent meetings with Chinese leaders.

“Well, we’re honest. We’re honest about the differences, and we certainly know what they are and we’ve articulated them, but that’s not my lane here,” Kerry said. “That’s — my job is to be the climate guy, and stay focused on trying to move the climate agenda forward.”


Meanwhile, from Reuters two weeks ago:

China is pressuring German car parts giant Continental to stop using components made in Lithuania, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters, amid a dispute between Beijing and the Baltic state over the status of Taiwan.

The Chinese government, which views self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania last month after the opening of a representative office by Taiwan in Vilnius…

Continental, one of the world’s largest car parts maker, has production facilities in Lithuania, making electronic parts such as controllers for vehicle doors and seats, and exports to clients globally including China.

German industry sources said the pressure was not only being felt by Continental but up to a dozen companies, mainly from the automotive and agricultural sectors, they said. . . .

Devil, long spoon, etc.

Original source

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.