Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine must not be allowed to undo decades of Sino-German economic cooperation
- China is not Russia. Its economic ties with Germany run far deeper, and Berlin needs good relations with Beijing to retain its leading position in Europe
- Without key raw materials from China, including metals, Europe and in particular Germany will not be in a position to advance ecological change
A rising China needs Germany and the rest of Europe as markets for its products to ensure economic growth. Germany needs China for its manufacturing, particularly in electronics and chemicals, and for raw materials.
Previous German chancellors Helmut Kohl, Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel understood that amicable and beneficial relations with China were in Germany’s best interests.
Germany has over the past decades grown dependent on Russian gas, oil and coal – particularly during Steinmeier’s time as foreign minister.
This is a misjudgment, however. Russia, with an economy smaller than Italy’s, is essentially a gas station with nuclear weapons that has initiated the most significant war on European soil since the second world war.
China is the present and the future, and for Berlin to maintain its leading position in Europe, German-Sino relations must continue to flourish, rather than decline.
Of course, it’s possible to be critical of China’s stance on a number of global issues. But Germany should give Beijing the benefit of the doubt and emphasise that there’s no comparison with the regime in Moscow.
Unlike Russia, Germany’s relationship with China is very much two-way. It is not about largely unprocessed raw materials such as oil or gas, but products in complex supply chains. German companies are heavily involved through their investments, while China relies on German technology.
More than two decades ago, business with China accounted for about 1 per cent of German trade volume. Today, more than one-tenth of German imports come from China. German exports to China have also increased significantly, accounting for more than 7 per cent of total exports.
Steinmeier can demand alternatives to China for raw materials as much as he pleases. But, without China, Europe and in particular Germany will not be in a position to advance ecological change or continue to prosper.
Germany, which has played a positive role in promoting China-EU relations, must be aware of this, and Putin’s war must not be allowed to undo decades of cooperation.
There will always be differences of opinion between Beijing and Berlin. But it shouldn’t hide the fact that positive Sino-German relations have been and continue to be a win-win state of affairs.
Thomas O. Falk is a UK-based independent journalist and political analyst