Focus topics

Manisha Reuter – Expert on Indo-Pacific Strategy

Manisha Reuter, Program Coordinator of the Asia Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

Ever since childhood, she regularly visits India and spent time in China as a pupil and student – today, Manisha Reuter is professionally involved with both countries. At the ECFR, one of her responsibilities is the promotion of discourse on China in Europe. A special focus lies on people from business or politics who are involved with China in various ways but are no experts. ” We help them understand what is going on in the China debate,” says Reuter.

Another topic that is currently keeping the 29-year-old very busy is the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy. Together with a colleague from France, she is working on a report on the perceptions and motivations of various European countries regarding the EU’s projects in the Indo-Pacific region. Manisha Reuter also owes her interest in Asia to her family: Her mother is from India. She regularly visits her family in the state of Gujarat and also speaks the local dialect, Gujarati.

As a schoolgirl, she spent several weeks in Shanghai and through a scholarship, she took part in a language and culture program and was overwhelmed by the glitter of huge shopping malls. During her studies, she spent a semester abroad in Hong Kong – one of the best moments of her life, as she says. She lived in a dormitory – a shared room of eight square meters – and went hiking on the weekends: To the right, the view of the idyllic countryside, on the left, the vista of the city. Reuter regrets the recent developments in Hong Kong. She had always hoped to return to the Hong Kong she once knew. But that is no longer the case.

It is important to remain in dialogue with China, Reuter stresses – especially when it comes to issues on climate. At the same time, however, Germany and the EU must set limits, for example in regard to human rights violations such as those in Xinjiang. “I think it is in our best interest to draw clear red lines and sometimes just be a bit brave.”

The signal of the frigate remained unused

The signal effect of some decisions should not be underestimated. Germany has not taken advantage of a current opportunity to send a strong signal. After all, the German frigate currently underway to the Indo-Pacific is also making a friendly visit to a Chinese port. However, it would have sent a stronger signal if it had avoided China and instead called exclusively at ports in India, Australia or Japan. “I think that would have been a great signal to partners in the region,” Reuter said. In this respect, Germany and the EU could learn from India, which is often less than timid when it comes to dealing with China – for example, by banning Chinese apps from the Indian market.

Manisha Reuter studied Political Science and Business Psychology in Lüneburg and then went to Frankfurt (Main) for her Master’s in International Studies and Peace and Conflict Research. Before joining ECFR in August 2020, she worked for the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund. There she worked under Janka Oertel, now Director of the Asia Program at ECFR. When Oertel moved to the ECFR, Reuter followed her.

Reuter spoke with China.Table shortly before her vacation in Austria. She has two plans for her time off: to read a book “that has nothing to do with the geopolitical events in this world”. And hiking – like she did in Hong Kong a few years back. Sarah Schaefer


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