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There is currently more geopolitical activity than since the fall of the Berlin Wall. With its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has put itself on the sidelines of world politics, at least for Western countries. Europe now seeks independence of Russian energy exports as quickly as possible. Germany has woken up to a world that punishes excessive proximity to autocratic regimes. Germany’s China policy could also soon see a change of course.
About a week and a half ago, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz himself spoke of a “turning point“. He announced major changes in his speech to the Bundestag. The fact that Berlin has made a 180-degree turn in its defense policy in such a short time – a policy that had been laid down decades ago – has certainly not gone unnoticed in Beijing, analyze Christiane Kuehl and Amelie Richter. This now leads to many unanswered questions in the Chinese capital.
Meanwhile, politicians around the world are placing high hopes on electric cars. The electric drive is supposed to reduce emissions and help protect the climate. But the next shortage is already on the horizon: After the chip crisis, the automotive sector could soon face a battery shortage, as our Beijing team reports. Industry representatives hope to sell 5.5 million EVs on the Chinese market this year. But according to reports, there are only enough batteries to power 4.4 million cars. There is a risk of global supply shortages for EV batteries till 2030. So we may have to switch to bicycles or public transport to help protect the climate!
Concerns about Germany’s turning point
The China strategy of the new German traffic light coalition seems to be taking shape. The first details are already emerging and are causing debate from German China circles all the way to China itself. On Wednesday, the German newspaper Handelsblatt reported about a secret diplomatic cable from the German Embassy in Beijing. The report urged the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) to reconsider its projects in China. The state-owned GIZ primarily implements cooperations on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), for example in climate protection, the legal system or Industry 4.0.
The newspaper quotes from the report that projects “in areas where Germany and China are in strategic competition with each other” should be put to the test. A goal-oriented dialog is not always possible. It may be just a single report that is at issue here. But it is another signal that the new German government’s China policy could be about to take a turn.
This has also been noticed in China. Apparently, there is unease in Beijing about the “turning point” in German foreign policy, as proclaimed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. EU sources in Beijing claim that the rapid change in German defense policy came as a “shock”. Berlin’s swing was perceived in China as a “game-changer” that no one in Beijing had expected. According to a report in the South China Morning Post, startled political scientists in Beijing are consulting German think tanks to find out what this turning point is all about.