German Industry Defends Shift to Asia-Pacific Region

Eight of the CEOs of major German companies who accompanied Chancellor Olaf Scholz to China on Nov. 4, published a joint statement in the Nov. 10 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, defending their cooperation with the Chinese as being in Germany’s genuine interest. A pullout, on the other hand, as demanded by geopolitical adversaries would “cut us off” from industrial development perspectives.

They begin by welcoming the “intensity of the public discussion surrounding Chancellor Scholz’s trip to China”, because it will benefit the working out of the German government’s new China strategy.

Over the 50 years since diplomatic relations were established between the two countries, they continue “bilateral relations have been characterized by ever closer cooperation between the two countries, to their mutual benefit. China has achieved enormous growth, brought 800 million people out of poverty into a modern middle class, and is now the world’s second largest economy.”

Germany contributed to this development, the CEOs explain, but at the same time, it has also become “a key player in the global economy” and the presence of companies in China and elsewhere has made “a significant contribution to our competitiveness”. Greater cooperation with China now will strengthen growth in Germany and in all of Europe.

They do note, however, the need to “diversify risks in crucial areas like semiconductors, batteries, raw materials and rare earths”, and to reduce dependency where necessary. And while there are legitimate tensions with Beijing on issues such as Taiwan and Xinjiang, they argue, they should be handled through dialogue. Today, however, “we perceive an almost exclusive emphasis on the rivalry of the systems – in words and concrete measures”.

The eight CEOs are: Martin Brudermueller (BASF), Roland Busch (Siemens), Belen Garijo (Merck), Stefan Hartung (Robert Bosch), Nicola Leibinger-Kammueller (Trumpf), Jan Rinnert (Heraeus), Klaus Rosenfeld (Schaeffler), Angela Titzrath (Hamburg Port and Logistics).

The commitment of these CEOs to not let geopolitics dominate economic relations with Asia comes on the backdrop of the growing realization, among leading industrialists, that the transatlantic economic-financial system offers no great perspective for German industry.

The dynamic in the Asia-Pacific area is very different, not only in China, but in other countries as well. That was underscored during Chancellor Scholz’s visit to Vietnam on Nov. 13. Although, from a geopolitical standpoint, Vietnam is a close ally of Russia, it has nonetheless become Germany’s leading partner in Southeast Asia, with some 350 German companies active there and solid opportunities for economic cooperation. For German exports, cooperation with such countries is a lifeline, given the state of the transatlantic partners. Hit by the dual impact of anti-industrial regulations allegedly designed to save “the environment”, and of the energy scarcity caused by the sanctions on Russia, entrepreneurs need to look to the Asia-Pacific region, or face doom if they don’t.

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