China strategy: Baerbock’s clear to sharp tone is correct


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Opinion China Strategy

The sound is clear to sharp – what Baerbock does right over Beijing

Annalena Baerbock Jennifer Wilton Annalena Baerbock Jennifer Wilton

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock; WELT Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Wilton

Credit: Jonathan NACKSTRAND/AFP; Martin UK Lengemann/ WORLD

The Foreign Ministry and the Chancellery have been wrangling over the details for months. It is now clear what relationship Germany wants to have with China in the future. The fact that Annalena Baerbock presented the new strategy alone and without ministerial colleagues is a clear signal.

NOf course it means something that it was Annalena Baerbock who finally stepped in front of the cameras to present the German government’s China strategy. After days of negotiations in the federal cabinet, after many months of struggle.

In which Relationship between Germany and China how it wants to position itself towards the country – certainly no one in the government has any doubts that this is a crucial question not only of foreign policy. As is well known, however, the Chancellery and the Foreign Ministry in particular did not come up with exactly the same answers for a long time.

This can be seen from the long development period for a strategy that had actually already been agreed upon in the coalition agreement. But it was also and above all evident in other performances that have taken place in recent months.

“China has changed, so our China policy must change too”

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock presents the Federal Government’s new China strategy. The 61-page paper is intended to be the guideline for future dealings with the second largest economy.

There was Olaf Scholz’s trip last November, on which he not only brought industry representatives but also a gift: the go-ahead for the Chinese state shipping company Cosco to enter the Port of Hamburg. Several ministers were – not amused. The chancellor’s tone in Beijing: rather conciliatory.

Differences to previous China policy under Merkel: hardly visible to the naked eye. Five months later, Baerbock traveled. Your tone: clear to sharp. On human rights violations, on the Taiwan question, on China’s position in the Ukraine war. Chinese officials were – not amused. Nor will they be now.

What the Foreign Minister now called a “compass” bears her signature much more clearly than another version of the guidelines, parts of which made their way to the public in the autumn. It may not be “a fundamental change of course,” but the tonality is clear.

It depends on the tonality

The slightly yellowed slogan “partner, competitor, systemic rival” focuses on the last term. Baerbock began their introduction with references to the enormous economic power to very quickly on the bounty to come, which Beijing has suspended on dissidents from Hong Kong.

It is the tonality that the Foreign Minister has been trying to achieve for months, despite a lot of criticism. And unlike the National Security Strategy, which was recently presented with a large contingent of ministers, she went to the microphone alone. That too is a sign.

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