Focus topics

Didi Kirsten Tatlow – China-critical analyst

Journalist and Senior Fellow of the DGAP Asia Program

Didi Kirsten Tatlow (54) grew up in Hong Kong – right in the neighborhood of a huge country. From an early age, she came into contact with her big neighbor China. It became her vocation: “China was my world and the reason to become a journalist.” Because “Europe never understood China very well and still doesn’t”.

Tatlow is a Senior Fellow in the Asia Program of the German Council on Foreign Relations. Every day, she observes China’s growing role and influence in world affairs, its current negotiations with the Taliban, its close ties to Pakistan, and its dangerous role in nuclear research. “When I started my work, I was naive. I’ve since become critical.”

Too critical, many accuse her. But Didi’s view is based on years of experience, a life in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and a job that was fraught with danger. “Europe may largely turn a blind eye, but I can’t.”

After studying Chinese and politics in London, she worked as a journalist in Asia and Europe for 23 years, writing for Chinese and foreign media, exposing organ trafficking and serial killers. She won the Human Rights Press Award from Amnesty International, the Foreign Correspondent’s Club Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. Working for her hometown newspaper, the South China Morning Post, brought her into serious conflict with Beijing’s government. As a correspondent for the New York Times, she became a target of the Chinese authorities.

Today, she lives in Berlin with her husband and two children. After a year of fellowship at Merics, Tatlow began the project she calls “China in Europe” in 2018, for which she explores the networks of the People’s Republic in Europe. As co-author and co-editor of the book “China’s Quest for Foreign Technology: Beyond Espionage,” she takes a look at Chinese power structures and espionage techniques. “We as Europe have a responsibility to be cautious, but also critical and courageous in addressing and analyzing the situation in the People’s Republic. Because it is a one-party state with a tyrannical tradition and the intention to become the number one state in the world.”

Didis Fokus liegt auf dem Technologietransfer und den wirtschaftlichen Strukturen zwischen China und Europa. Die Abhängigkeit von China beunruhigt sie sehr. “Eine große wirtschaftliche Interessengruppe in Deutschland verteidigt und unterstützt China und übersieht damit viele politische und menschenrechtliche Themen.” Dabei schaue man über die eigene Verantwortung hinweg: China verletze Menschenrechte in Taiwan, in Tibet, Xinjiang und Hongkong, im eigenen Land, aber auch international. “Ich verstehe nicht, wieso man so wenig tut. Doch es muss sich etwas ändern. China greift längst nicht mehr nur innerhalb seiner Grenzen ein, sondern weit darüber hinaus.”

Didi’s focus is on technology transfer and economic structures between China and Europe. She is very concerned about the dependence on China. “A large economic interest group in Germany defends and supports China, overlooking many political and human rights issues.” In doing so, they overlook their own responsibilities: China violates human rights in Taiwan, in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong, in their own country, but also internationally. “I don’t understand why so little is being done. But something has to change. China has long since intervened not only within its borders but far beyond.”

Didi calls for a rethink and understanding as a journalist, China expert, Hong Kong native, and mother. “What kind of world will our children grow up in? We decide whether it will be in a democratic one.” Or in a world significantly influenced by the CCP. Lisa Marie Jordan


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