This morning the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs published the federal government’s guiding document on Chinese relations after years of increasing confrontation and a Western pivot to the Pacific. In the announcement they say:
“We have to deal with these challenges that China is confronting us with – and at the same time continue to seek and strengthen exchange and cooperation with China. China remains an indispensable partner for us in combating climate change, in solving the debt crises of individual countries, for food security and thus also for stability worldwide. China is at the same time a partner, competitor and systemic rival. The German government’s China strategy takes these dimensions into account.”
The crux of the 40-page document, which can be found here ,is that the German government is no longer strategically ambiguous about Chinese competition; while the German government seeks to cooperate on global issues, it realizes that Chinese growth is at the expense of its neighbors and the international order. It also realizes that while China is a key player in several issues, it also exacerbates political, economic, and social problems with its techno-authoritarian goals. The document says as much:
“This systemic rivalry is reflected in the fact that Germany and China have different concepts of the principles governing the international order in important areas. The Federal Government is observing with concern how China is endeavoring to
influence the international order in line with the interests of its single-party system and thus to relativize the foundations of the rules-based international order, such as the status of human rights.”
The document directly mentions the Uyghurs, which China continues to prosecute and ethnically cleanse in its Western provinces. This mention alone is sure to rile the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The document also mentions the Belt and Road Initiative and how some countries have bought into unsustainable debt at the cost of dependence on China. However, perhaps the most important gripe in this document is the objection to Chinese military modernization, violation of the Law of the Sea in the South China Sea, and arms trade with Russia during the current war in Ukraine. The German government heavily protests any military relationship between the two authoritarian regimes in which Russia is able to more effectively continue its invasion.
All in all, this document represents the unmasking of German ambiguity of the Chinese problem and more closely aligns Berlin with the UK and U.S.