Berlin’s Cozy New Relationship with Beijing

(…..) Just how close the relationship between the 2 countries has become will be evident this Thursday, when Merkel travels to Beijing for two days of intergovernmental consultations accompanied by nine cabinet ministers and two parliamentary state secretaries. It’s an important political gesture seeing that the German cabinet only meets regularly with select partners. China does not have a similar arrangement with any other country. Merkel’s shift toward China isn’t just a result of close economic integration between 2 of world’s largest exporting nations. Germany does not buy more goods from any country. Germany ships 6% of its exports to China, almost twice as much as it did only three years ago. China is one of the most important markets for machine-builders and automakers. The Chinese, for their part, need German know-how to continue modernizing their country. China also has an interest in the survival of the euro. In the long term, Beijing wants to establish its own currency, the renminbi, as global reserve currency, next to the US dollar. It needs the euro to break the dominant position of American currency in the long run. Thus, for as long as Germans support the euro, the Chinese will also do so. They recently promised, without further ado, to contribute an additional $40 billion (€32 billion) to the coffers of the International Monetary Fund. In fact, Merkel reportedly plans to directly ask China for aid in combating the ongoing euro debt crisis in Europe. Senior government officials say she will bring up the issue of whether the Chinese would like to directly purchase sovereign bonds of Spain and Italy, the two major ailing euro-zone countries, arguing their high yields makes them an attractive investment. Berlin’s interest in China, however, goes well beyond economic relations. Since China is one of the 5 veto powers on the United Nations Security Council, Beijing plays a decisive role in the central issues that, besides the euro crisis, are currently important for German foreign policy. Chinese are as important a factor in the negotiations over Iranian nuclear program as in discussions over Syria’s future. Only a few years ago, when voting in the Security Council, China took its cue from Russia on matters that did not directly affect its own interests. When the West wanted to assert important positions, it had to appeal to Moscow and not Beijing. But now the foreign policy experts in Berlin assess the situation differently. On Syria question, for example, it appears that China is more open to taking a constructive approach. As a result, the discussion over how the world community should deal with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad will play a central role during Merkel’s talks in Beijing. Until now, Chinese have blocked all attempts by the West to adopt a Security Council resolution against Assad. But the Germans now hope that Beijing’s position could change. It is encouraging that China has announced plans to provide aid for the Syrian refugees, says a senior government official in Berlin. The Chancellor’s newly strengthened emphasis on China also has to do with changes in Russia. Russian approach to the West has become more rigid since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin as president in May. Merkel has given up hope of being able to convince Putin to agree to compromises on important issues, such as the Syrian conflict. Officials in Berlin also fear Moscow could veer away from the collective position in Iran negotiations. Under these conditions, Germany’s pivot toward Beijing is also a turning away from Moscow (…..)

Link: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/angela-merkel-trip-to-china-to-test-strength-of-growing-ties-a-852288.html 

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