It's been a good three years since my predecessor visited China last. Three years in which the challenges and risks have increased - here in Europe, in East Asia and of course also in German-Chinese relations. Three years in which the world has changed profoundly. On the one hand because of the corona pandemic, on the other hand because of Russia's war against Ukraine
with its serious consequences for the international order, for energy and food supply, for the economy and prices worldwide. Precisely because business as usual is not an option in this situation, I am traveling to Beijing. For a long time, such meetings were not possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Beijing's strict corona policy. This makes direct conversation all the more important now.
Five thoughts accompany me on this journey.
- Today's China is no longer the same as it was five or ten years ago. The results of the party congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which has just ended, speak a clear language: confessions to Marxism-Leninism occupy much wider space than in previous party congress resolutions. The pursuit of national security, synonymous with the stability of the communist system, and national autonomy will become more important in the future. It is clear that if China changes, our dealings with China must also change.
- Not only China, but also the world has changed. Russia's war against Ukraine brutally calls into question the international peace and security order. Even before the threat of nuclear weapons, President Vladimir Putin is no longer afraid of. In doing so, he threatens to cross a red line that has drawn all of humanity. At the beginning of the year, China clearly positioned itself against the deployment or even the threat of nuclear weapons in a statement with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council. As a permanent member of the Security Council, China has a special responsibility. Clear words from Beijing to Moscow are important - in order to comply with the United Nations Charter and its principles.
These include the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. No country is the "backyard" of another. What applies in Europe with regard to Ukraine also applies in Asia, Africa or Latin America. New power centers of a multipolar world are emerging there, with which we want to enter into and expand partnerships. In recent months, we have coordinated intensively internationally - with close partners such as Japan and Korea, with emerging Asian powers such as India and Indonesia, also with African and Latin American countries. At the end of next week I will travel to Southeast Asia and the G-20 summit. Parallel to my visit to China, the Federal President will be a guest in Japan and Korea.
Germany in particular, which experienced the division in the Cold War in a particularly painful way, has no interest in a new block formation in the world. The new US National Security Strategy also rightly reaffirms the goal of preventing a new bloc confrontation. With regard to China, this means that of course, this country, with its 1.4 billion inhabitants and its economic strength, will play an important role on the world stage in the future - as well as over long distances of world history. However, this does not derive the demand of some for the isolation of China, nor a claim to hegemonic dominance of China or even a Sinocentric world order.
- China remains an important economic and trading partner for Germany and Europe even under changed circumstances. We don't want decoupling, not decoupling from China. But what does China want? China's economic strategy of the two circuits is aimed at strengthening the domestic Chinese market and reducing dependencies on other countries. In a speech at the end of 2020, President Xi Jinping also spoke of using Chinese technologies to "entensify the dependence of international production chains on China." We take such statements seriously.
We will therefore reduce unilateral dependencies in the sense of wise diversification. This requires a sense of proportion and pragmatism. A large part of the trade between Germany and China concerns products that do not lack alternative sources of supply or threaten dangerous monopolies. Rather, China, Germany and Europe benefit equally. But where risky dependencies have arisen - for example, with important raw materials, some rare earths or certain future technologies - our companies are now rightly setting up their supply chains more broadly. We support them in this, for example through new raw material partnerships.
Even with Chinese investments in Germany, we differentiate according to whether such a business creates or increases risky dependencies. Incidentally, this was also the benchmark that the federal government applied to a terminal of the Port of Hamburg in the case of the minority participation of the Chinese shipping company Cosco. Thanks to clear conditions, full control of the terminal remains with the city of Hamburg and the port company. Diversification and strengthening of our own resilience instead of protectionism and retreat into our own market - this is our attitude, in Germany and in the European Union.
We are far, too far from reciprocity, from reciprocity in relations between China and Germany, for example with regard to market access for companies, licenses, the protection of intellectual property or issues of legal certainty and equal treatment of our nationals. We will continue to demand reciprocity. However, where China does not allow this reciprocity, it cannot remain without consequences. Such a differentiated approach to China corresponds to the long-term, strategic interests of Germany and Europe.
- President Xi said in Davos earlier this year: "The world is developing through the movement of contradictions - nothing would exist without contradiction." This means allowing and endureing contradiction. This means not excluding difficult topics in exchange with each other. This includes respect for civil and political freedoms as well as the rights of ethnic minorities, for example in Xinjiang Province.
The tense situation around Taiwan is worrying. Like the USA and many other states, we pursue a one-China policy. However, this means that a change in the status quo may only take place peacefully and by mutual agreement. Our policy is aimed at maintaining the rules-based order, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, the protection of human and minority rights and free, fair world trade.
- If I travel to Beijing as German Chancellor, I do so as a European at the same time. Not to speak in the name of the whole of Europe, that would be wrong and presumptuous. But because German China policy can only be successful embedded in a European China policy. In the run-up to my trip, we therefore coordinated closely with our European partners, including President Macron, and also with our transatlantic friends. With the triad "partner, competitor, rival" the European Union has correctly described China, with elements of rivalry and competition undoubtedly increasing in recent years.
We must deal with this by accepting competition and taking the consequences of system rivality seriously and taking them into account in our policies. At the same time, it is important to explore where cooperation remains in the mutual interest. After all, the world needs China - for example in the fight against global pandemics such as Covid-19.
Even when it comes to ending the global food crisis, supporting highly indebted states and achieving the UN development goals, China plays a crucial role. Without decisive action in reducing emissions in China, we cannot win the fight against climate change. That is why it is good that Beijing has set itself ambitious goals for the expansion of renewable energies, and I advocate that China, together with us, assumes even more international responsibility for climate protection.
We are aware that we are also competing with climate-friendly technologies - for the most efficient products, the smartest ideas, the most successful implementation of the respective plans. However, this presupposes that China does not close its market to our climate-friendly technologies. We face this competition. Less competition always means less innovation. The loser would be climate protection - and thus all of us.
All this is a lot of material for an inaugural visit to Beijing. We are looking for cooperation where it is in the interest of both sides. We will not exclude controversies. This is part of an open exchange between Germany and China.