On the occasion of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s high profile visit to Berlin, the FT has a write up of how Chinese-German relations are progressing, especially in light of the crisis in Ukraine. Angela Merkel has positioned her country as China’s economic door to Europe and is working to parlay that into a diplomatic tool for curtailing Russia’s aggression, given the warming relations between Beijing and Moscow. The FT:
Ms Merkel also hopes that Mr Li can help mediate with Russian president Vladimir Putin over the crisis in Ukraine, in an unusual departure for a country that normally shies away from shuttle diplomacy. The second stop on the Chinese premier’s European tour will be Moscow.“Germany’s top priority is the Ukraine and stabilising relations with Russia,” says Sebastian Heilmann, president of the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “For Berlin, China has become a very important partner because Russia will listen to it. It’s a new diplomatic configuration that we are seeing here.”“This huge delegation of several hundred decision makers is also an indicator of how important China sees its relationship with Germany,” Prof Heilmann adds. “There must be one gateway open for China to communicate with the west. Right now that gateway is Germany.”
Germany’s diplomatic moves raise a number of questions for a U.S. that is struggling to cope with the return of hard power geopolitics to the world stage:1) Is Germany’s approach to China for help in mediating the Ukraine issue with Russia something that Berlin coordinated with Washington, or is it the case the Berlin doesn’t see much leadership coming out of DC and is going about addressing this problem on its own?
2) As leaders of two of the world’s export powerhouses meet—both of whose economies have decelerated against the background of slowing demand—are they going to be thinking about ways of promoting a healthier world economy, or will they simply be looking at bilateral issues?
3) China’s massive delegation for its Germany visit is an impressive display of interest and commitment. What are the goals of China’s current policy toward Europe and Germany?
4) One of the sore spots in German-Chinese relations is China’s hunger for a greater and greater transfer of German know-how as the price of opening China to more German business. How much of this friction involves technology transfers that would have significant implications for China’s military capabilities—and how effectively is the US working with the German government to make sure that military security issues are given due weight by German firms in these constant and very focused discussions?