Will Pragmatists Prevail over Confrontationists in Berlin?
Germany’s new National Security Strategy, presented in Berlin on June 15, targets Russia, as expected, as the main adversary: “Today’s Russia is the greatest threat to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area for the foreseeable future. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is a blatant breach of the United Nations Charter and the cooperative European security order… Russia directly threatens our security and that of our allies in NATO and the EU…. It is deliberately trying to destabilize Europe’s democratic societies…”
The Strategy document is not as aggressive toward China, but is by no means friendly: “China is a partner, a competitor and a systemic rival…. The elements of rivalry and competition have increased in recent years…. Regional stability and international security are increasingly being put under pressure, and human rights are being disregarded. China is deliberately using its economic power to achieve political goals.” The document nonetheless adds that China “remains a partner without whom many global challenges and crises cannot be solved. It is therefore in these areas in particular that we must seize the possibilities and opportunities for cooperation”.
It should be noted that a new China Strategy is being worked out separately, under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry. It is expected to demonstrate once again that there are two China policies in the German government: the Chancellor wants to avoid escalation and maintain intense economic cooperation with China, whereas Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has a “pit-bull” policy of provocations and accusations.
Chinese leaders are aware of the problem, as expressed June 16 by Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. A document, he said, that “views others as competitors, rivals or even adversaries and turns normal cooperation into issues of security and politics will only drive our world into a vortex of division and confrontation”. Nonetheless, in advance of the arrival in Germany on June 19 of Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang for governmental consultations, Wang explained that the fact that this will be Premier Li’s first stop on his first overseas trip since taking office, “shows the importance China attaches to its relations with Germany. The mechanism of intergovernmental consultation, with the Chinese premier and the German chancellor as its co-chairs, is a ‘super engine’ of cooperation between the two countries.”
China’s Global Times also weighed in on the subject of Li Qiang’s trip to Berlin, writing that “Germany is not seeking ‘decoupling’ with China, which shows Berlin is being pragmatic and cautious when dealing with China when it’s also under pressure from the US”.