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Jan Hecker – Merkel’s trusted man becomes ambassador in Beijing

Jan Hecker is the Chancellor’s most important advisor on foreign policy. Soon he will be the new ambassador in Beijing

When Chancellor Angela Merkel appointed Jan Hecker as her chief advisor on foreign policy four years ago, it came as quite a surprise. After all, she had filled the most important foreign policy position with someone who was not particularly internationally versed. Until then, Hecker had been a domestic politician through and through. As head of the Refugee Policy Coordination Unit, he was at best only marginally involved in foreign policy issues. In another unexpected move, leaks at the beginning of the year revealed that the Chancellor was going to appoint the 55-year-old as the Federal Republic’s new ambassador to Beijing. He is expected to take up his new post in the next few weeks.

Born in Kiel, Hecker studied law and political science in Freiburg, Grenoble and Göttingen. After his second state examination, he worked as a lawyer at the renowned law firms Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Hengeler Mueller before moving to the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 1999. Here, he was mainly responsible for police and constitutional law issues and met Peter Altmaier, who was appointed as Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior between 2005 and 2009.

In the meantime, Hecker habilitated at the Faculty of Law of the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder. In 2011, he became a judge at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. When Altmaier became head of the Chancellor’s Office in 2015, he brought Hecker into the Chancellor’s Office and appointed him as head of the newly created Refugee Policy Coordination Unit during the summer of the crisis. In 2017, the chancellor eventually made Hecker her top foreign policy adviser. Hecker took over from his predecessor Christoph Heusgen as ministerial director in charge of foreign, security and development policy. Now his appointment as German ambassador in Beijing follows.

Unlike his predecessors Clemens von Götze, who was appointed as ambassador to Beijing for three years, and Michael Clauss, who held the post for five years until 2018 and now shapes China policy as chief diplomat in Brussels, Hecker has not followed a classic diplomatic career path, a rather unusual occurrence in Germany.

But the chancellery now regards the position as ambassador to Beijing as one of the most important outposts of the German government. The fact that Merkel is filling this post with one of her closest collaborators of recent years shows the importance she continues to attribute to the People’s Republic. And with this executive move, she perhaps wants to ensure a certain continuity in German China policy after her imminent departure as chancellor. Following the motto: just not too much confrontation. Felix Lee

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