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On October 11, 1972, China and Germany officially established diplomatic relations. And it actually took almost exactly those 50 years for the German government to be represented by a woman in Beijing for the first time. Patricia Flor has only been in post for a few months – and her start was anything but ordinary: Because of the limited entry possibilities, the ambassador took a charter flight to China and first had to go into quarantine without official accreditation. Now, Flor gives her first interview with a German publication: China.Table.
Amelie Richter spoke with Berlin’s first woman in the People’s Republic about how she plans to circumvent China’s censorship, the role of the EU in Germany’s position toward China, and how a feminist foreign policy is to change China’s society.
Back in 1972, economic policy vision was apparently not a German characteristic. The initiation of diplomatic relations with China was more the result of Chinese lobbying than of decisive German action. After all, no one could have predicted that after Mao Zedong’s death, the world’s poorhouse would evolve into the second-largest economy in just a few decades.
50 years later, we are apparently still fumbling in the dark. Word has spread that there is a lot of money to be made in China. But how our country, a liberal democracy and a country heavily scarred by dictatorships, is supposed to deal with the increasingly strong claims to supremacy of an authoritarian state with fairly poor civil and human rights track records, still remains a mystery to us.
In his essay on the complicated relations between Germany and China, Michael Radunski therefore draws a critical conclusion: “We obviously do not know ourselves what we want to stand for. And as long as we are not sure about this, more disappointments will follow when dealing with the People’s Republic.”
‘On Twitter, we can post censored content’
Patricia Flor still has not found her favorite restaurant with the best Jiaozi in Beijing – there was hardly any time for culinary excursions during the first two months of the new German ambassador’s stay in Beijing. The 60-year-old took up her new post just over three months ago. “I immediately met many of my ambassador colleagues, which was very interesting. The ambassadors from local countries, that is Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, have their own take on things. That was very valuable for me.”
Flor’s appointment as ambassador happened under exceptional circumstances. The Nuremberg native succeeded Jan Hecker, who unexpectedly passed away last year after only a few weeks in office. Besides, Flor’s appointment was anything but regular. Because of the still limited entry possibilities, the ambassador took a charter flight from the Chamber of Commerce Abroad to China. Before she could submit her accreditation, she sat in quarantine at her residence.
She is the first woman to hold Germany’s highest representative post in the People’s Republic, and that has already changed a few things. The ambassador is active on Twitter and Chinese social media. She also comments and shares critical posts. In Beijing, she has already visited the German school, met with the German Academic Exchange Service and Chinese alumni. She has also already been summoned by the Chinese Foreign Ministry – to talk about the Taiwan issue. “A special honor,” Flor says sarcastically.