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In a recent opinion article for Caixin Online, Zhang Yuanan discusses the growing bilateral economic relationship between China and Germany. Zhang notes that over the years, Angela Merkel’s attitude toward China has shifted from “hardline to pragmatic.” She has already visited China twice this year, and her “visits with Chinese leaders outnumber those with US President Barack Obama.”
Zhang draws a parallel between today’s Sino-German ties and the US-UK relationship in 1946, remarking that both Winston Churchill and German officials described their bond with the US, and China as a “special relationship.” However, Zhang notes that the two relationships are not comparable due to various differences [most notably on the subject political ideology and human rights] between the Chinese and German governments. Regardless, Zhang notes that ideological differences aside, both China and Germany have shown an inclination towards closer cooperation.
In August this year, Germany agreed to push the next round of Sino-German talks – which were originally scheduled for 2013 – to end August 2012. The intent behind this change was to allow chancellor Merkel to establish contact with China’s future leader and facilitate talks on strengthening collaboration.
Zhang argues that while Germany will never undermine its European neighbours in the diplomatic front, it will seek to establish economic ties unilaterally with China. For a long time, the EU has tried but failed to create a unified trade policy with China. Rather, “each of the 27 members has been secretly trying to establish…commercial links with China individually.” Given the myriad of differing positions, interests and needs, it is likely that this de-collectivized diplomacy will persist in the near future. Moreover, Zhang notes that Germany is one of “the few EU countries that are economically complimentary with China” as it provides expertise [something China lacks] in exchange for Chinese market share.
As part of her new pragmatic perspective on China, Merkel seems to have “sidestepped issues such as human rights and patent protection,” and discouraged the EU from starting an anti-dumping procedure regarding its photovoltaic dispute with China. Given Germany’s occupying the “leading position” in the EU since the debt crisis, Zhang wonders whether Sino-EU relations will inevitably morph into Sino-German relations. With two weeks left until the next China-EU summit, it remains to be seen whether chancellor Merkel will push for a partnership with China based on the interests of the whole EU, or that of the German economy.
A recent article in China Daily asserts – like Zhang – that China and Germany will remain close trade and economic partners. However, it remains to be seen whether Merkel’s soft line with China will be politically palatable to the German public. German observers seem critical with Merkel’s reluctance to discuss human rights issues in her recent China visit. This article from the Spiegel Online compiles a number of warnings by German commentators that “Berlin should not let itself be seduced by Beijing’s attention.”
Doug Saunders’ latest column analyzes the rise of Germany as the central pillar of the European Union and the potential for resulting discord on the continent.
Germans perceived the ‘old’ EU, according to Saunders, as a “centreless power” of institutions and neutral legalistic ties in which Germany was one country in a group of equals. Now, as responsibility for addressing the European crisis increasingly falls on Berlin, it appears that Germany is the ‘first among equals,’ if not the outright leader of the continent. Saunders does not believe this was the German people’s plan, but it is a reality of which the smaller EU states are painfully aware.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for greater political integration to remedy the crisis. This plan may work, but it will likely exacerbate tensions between Germany and its neighbours. Saunders believes that greater integration under the shadow of an explicit realization of German power may pose an even greater challenge for the Eurozone and the EU as a whole than did the financial crisis. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be much other choice.
Adriana Cerretelli, columnist for “Il Sole 24 Ore”, writes in her April 19 article about the financial troubles that Italy and Europe are still facing. The last few days were very negative for the “spread” performances and real estates activities in Euro-zone are losing this year 7.1% of their value (17,1% only in Germany). According to Cerretelli, in this particular scenario the presidential election in France will hold the balance of power for Euro’s destiny.