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Monika Hohlmeier – MEP with many anecdotes from China

Monika Hohlmeier has a special memory of a German-Chinese conversation: in 1985, her father, then Bavarian Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauß, met the then leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Deng Xiaoping. Officially, half an hour was planned for the conversation. “But the two of them had such a good time that the entire protocol was thrown out,” Hohlmeier recounts, laughing heartily. “After an hour everyone got restless, after two hours the éclat was perfect.” At the time, she was accompanying her politician father on his trip abroad. Today, the 59-year-old is herself a CSU MEP and a member of the China delegation.

Monika Hohlmeier was born in 1962, the youngest of three children of the CSU politician Strauß, who was Bavarian Prime Minister from 1978 to 1988. After the death of her mother in 1984, the trained hotel manager took on the role of Bavarian “First Lady” – and then began her own political career. For 18 years she was a member of the Bavarian State Parliament, and from 1998 to 2005 she was Bavarian Minister of Education. In 2009, she was elected to the European Parliament.

Most recently, Hohlmeier was criticized for a mask deal – that is, for sourcing a product that is mainly imported from China. According to reports, she put Andrea Tandler, daughter of long-time CSU politician Gerold Tandler, in touch with German Health Minister Jens Spahn. Andrea Tandler then received a large sum in commissions as a broker in the Swiss company Emix’s mask deals with the federal government. In Bavaria, Hohlmeier is also said to have established contact between Tandler and the health ministry – whereupon the ministry struck the “most expensive deal for FFP2 mouth protection” during the first Corona wave in 2020, Spiegel reported. Hohlmeier herself probably earned nothing from the deals. She did not know about the commissions for Tandler, she said through a lawyer.

The runway in Shandong marked with flares

Regardless of the Bavarian mask affair, she is considered to be an extremely well-informed expert on China. The meeting between her father and Deng Xiaoping was so fascinating for her because two people from societies with completely different values met – and yet got along so well. “Despite the differences, there were experiences, such as wars, that they had both lived through, over which they created a bond,” Hohlmeier said. These contrasts are also always exciting in her own work, she said: young people from China, for example, wonder how in Europe individual interests can be more important than those of the community. “When we then explain our approach, exciting discussions ensue,” Hohlmeier says. “You have to get into a conversation with each other to make each other understandable.”

Hohlmeier has all kinds of anecdotes from her trips to China. Many tell of the speed with which China has developed into a global world power: In 1985, she says, she also traveled with her father to the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, where bridges had collapsed and electricity had failed as a result of a typhoon. “We tried to find the airport with flashlights, and someone lit the runway with a torch,” she says. “When I compare that with the airport today, I think it represents an incredible development of China, its strength and its will.”

For relations between Europe and China, she would like to be able to discuss difficult topics such as human rights and forced labour openly and honestly. “If we are in competition with each other and still want to deal with each other in a respectful, friendly manner and in friendship, this also means that we can address issues that may be unpleasant for the Chinese government,” the CSU politician stresses. Leonie Düngefeld

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