December 7, 2022

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Germany: It did not learn from Russia’s mistake – against all of Europe regarding China

A particularly critical article about German policy toward China Published by Politico. Analyst Stuart Lau, who wants to describe what he sees as an equal (if greater) danger to Russia, begins by referring to the visit of the Chinese president’s father Xi Jinping in Soviet Ukraine.

It was in the early autumn of 1959 when Shi Zhongxun, the father of the incumbent and a high-ranking official in Mao’s government, arrived in Kyiv as head of an expedition to inspect factories operating in the region, learn about government planning for the USSR, and go boating on the Dnieper River. As the Politico analyst points out, what he saw in those four days was nothing like the Ukraine of today.

The little boy then, who will end up The leader of the only powerful communist party in the worldHe was so impressed with the photos of this trip that he remembered them for many years afterward.

said Joseph Turgean, a researcher at The American University who discovered old newspaper clippings about Xi’s visit to the Lenin Library in Moscow.

difficult relationship

Young Xi, who could now become China’s president for life, began his third (unprecedented) term this week — and Europe is preparing for a rocky relationship. From the race for technological supremacy to the prospect of armed conflict between Beijing and Washington, Europe has little reason to rejoice in the era of the most powerful leader China has seen since Mao, Lau says.

Indeed, the bloc’s position has changed so radically that European leaders sounded the alarm last week about China’s “strategic threat” to the West. It seems that the days of goodwill for the climate or business cooperation are long gone.

“Under Xi’s leadership, Europe’s relationship with China has deteriorated.” Jacques Ertel, Director of Asia at the European Council on International Relations explains. “With Xi, it was China that changed. Not Europe. But Europeans are now adjusting to the new reality.”

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In Ertel’s view, Europe’s position comes in part as a response to China’s brutal repression within its borders, its regional power and aggressive diplomacy. He pointed out that all these moves alienated Western politicians.

Russia’s role

But the most important problem is China’s strategic alliance with Russia, amid the war in Ukraine, which made European capitals reconsider their position. Although Beijing has not provided military aid to Russia, it is clearly providing it with financial and political support.

One theory is that Xi’s reluctance to condemn Putin over Ukraine stems from Chinese ambitions to place Taiwan – the island republic of 23 million people – under Beijing’s direct control.

“Have we entered a downward spiral?” asked German Ambassador to the European Union Michael Claus, the former Berlin’s top envoy in Beijing, last week. “A lot will depend on China’s next steps, particularly in dealing with Russia and Taiwan.”

What will happen to Taiwan?

Lau argues that Xi’s plans for Taiwan may go unnoticed if Putin does not awaken his good friend Europe with his invasion of Ukraine. The sheer scale of the eight EU sanctions against Russia has led to an almost unimaginable near-complete disengagement from Europe for the first time since the end of the Cold War, although these actions directly affect the European economy.

Xi insists on talking about peaceful reunification with Taiwan as an ideal scenario, even in recent speeches. But the Politico analyst notes that the chances of a peaceful solution are actually lower than ever.

The Chinese military made a dramatic show of force after Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, firing ballistic missiles that flew over the Taiwanese capital while simultaneously conducting live-fire exercises around the island in what appeared to be a rehearsal for a future invasion.

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War and semiconductors

In boardrooms, international forums, and government meetings, Taiwan is now the inevitable question that European companies and politicians are being asked to answer. When will China enter the war? How will Europe react in the economic field? What will happen to its partnerships with the world’s second largest economy? And what solution can be found for the more advanced semiconductors that are currently produced mainly in Taiwan?

“I think our failed European policy toward Russia is causing many of us to reconsider our approach toward China,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielus Landsbergis told Politico. “If you cheat on me once it is my fault. If you cheat on me a second time? Then it works in reverse.” The countries of Europe do not want to find themselves again regretting that they “did not show the necessary vigilance against a tyrannical power”.

In Brussels, officials are encouraging European governments to seek broader economic partnerships with Taiwan. At the same time, the European Union is asking its capitals to reduce their dependence on advanced semiconductors in which the island nation specializes. Nearly 90% of the most advanced chips consumed in Europe come from Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC)

Berlin dances to its own beat

While Brussels hopes for European unity in the face of turmoil with China, Berlin insists on doing things its own way. Indeed, Xi’s instinct was to turn to Germany whenever he needed Europe’s support. At least that’s how things were during Angela Merkel’s presidency.

The current cooperation government has so far sent conflicting messages about its plans to manage relations with Xi. German Chancellor Olaf Schulz is planning a trip to China in early November, accompanied by a delegation of businessmen, just months after a visit to Japan in which he insisted on the need to diversify business and move away from Beijing.

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In addition, he is expected to reject the views of six of his ministers by agreeing to a controversial deal with the state-owned Chinese transport giant, which is seeking to acquire a minority stake in one of the ports of Hamburg, where he was previously mayor. .

Solz’s approach sparked a backlash in Brussels, where he told his European counterparts last week that he had no intention of withdrawing from Beijing.

Division within the German government

It is not a common position of the entire German government, especially since the war in Ukraine exposed the problem of energy dependence in Russia.

The Secretary of State, Annalena Burbock, has attacked companies that increase their dependence on China. He stressed that “total economic dependence on hope makes us vulnerable to political blackmail.”

“The need for a responsible economy – and even politics – does not allow us to return to the situation in which in a few years we will have to save the chemical and automobile industries with billions in taxes, because they have made themselves dependent on the Chinese market.”

On a private level, it seems to be quite straightforward. During one of her first talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, he praised his boss for his popularity, citing opinion polls. Lau argues that it is a tactic he has been using for years to undermine less popular leaders in Western democracies. Most of them reacted with polite smiles, but Burbock responded back.

According to No Frontiers, Andrew Small’s forthcoming book, Barbock told him that in her East German constituency similar rates of actual socialism are occurring.