New German coalition govt to toughen stance against China 


October 4, 2021


New German coalition govt to toughen stance against China 

Chinese and German flags (File: Photo/REUTERS)

BERLING: After 16 years of Angela Merkel’s rule, Germany’s new coalition government may bring about a more honest debate on China.

Frederick Kliem, writing in Nikkei Asia, said that US President Joe Biden might be surprised to find a more cooperative partner in Berlin.

On China, Merkel’s nonchalant and taciturn approach to the systemic and concrete challenges posed by Beijing caused much frustration.

At home, she was frequently criticized for her indifference toward human rights abuses and authoritarianism.

In the US and Europe, she was accused of prioritizing Germany’s economic relationship with Beijing without taking a stand on Chinese violations of international law, and of not showing sufficient support for Germany’s partners as new geopolitical fault lines emerged, reported Nikkei Asia.

Merkel’s retirement will see the transfer of some power back to the coalition parties and the ministries. If Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock becomes foreign minister, expect the Foreign Office to reassert itself with a strong green foreign policy profile.

While it remains unclear who will succeed Merkel as chancellor, Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has the upper hand.

The narrow loss suffered by Armin Laschet, leader of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), means that he is still in the race to form a new government. This election signals the beginning of a new normal: a more fragmented political system where less voter loyalty means that the combined vote of the CDU and SPD is unlikely to exceed 50 per cent.

Henceforth, the Bundestag will consist of numerous parties within reach of 10 per cent, making multiparty governing coalitions standard.

Governments will be less stable and comparatively short-lived, and the chancellery less powerful, predicted Kliem. Those who want to see Germany take a stronger position when it comes to China — including Washington — a three-party “traffic light” coalition may be the best possible outcome, said Kliem. This represents a unique chance to reassess Germany’s traditional China policy, and rethink how to reconcile Germany’s economic imperative, which is ill-suited to today’s geopolitical dynamic.

The palpable global backlash against Beijing has increased the pressure on Berlin to clearly position itself by its allies’ side, reported Nikkei Asia.

Moreover, the new AUKUS trilateral security pact involving the US, the UK and Australia has not only put Germany in a difficult spot between the US and France, its two most important allies, but will force Berlin to confront the question it least likes to ask: where to position Germany within great-power competition. So far, it has remained woefully silent, said Kliem.

Despite their ideological differences, both the Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) advocate a stronger stance on China and Russia, with the Greens election manifesto identifying a “systemic rivalry” with Beijing, albeit de-emphasizing the military element, reported Nikkei Asia.

In addition to advocating support for Hong Kong’s civil rights movement, the FDP manifesto backs a closer relationship with Taiwan and goes into extraordinary detail about it being a “successful democratic counterpart to the PRC,” albeit within the one-China framework, and emphasizes the need to protect the integrity of international law.

The traffic light coalition government has an opportunity to align closer with Germany’s partners and work toward a united trans-Atlantic position on the challenges posed by Beijing, said Kliem. Such a coalition would also be well-placed to accept some economic risks in order to promote a more principled and proactive China policy, a “human-rights-based foreign policy,” as the Greens call it.

Although Washington has historically been more comfortable with a CDU-led government, President Joe Biden may find a Scholz-led coalition unexpectedly cooperative on China, added Kliem. (ANI)