Berlin “must give up its bilateral approach to China”

A senior German lawmaker representing Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s party said the Chinese government’s coercion of Lithuania underscored the need to abandon Germany’s bilateral approach to Beijing in favor of a unified European stance.

Why is this important: China was Germany leading economic partner since 2015. As wider European attitudes towards Beijing have soured over its human rights abuses and unfair trade practices, Germany has been called upon to rethink pro-engagement policies favored by former Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Driving the news: Nils Schmid, the Social Democratic Party’s foreign policy spokesman, spoke to Axios ahead of Scholz’s meeting with President Biden on Monday, where US-German coordination on China was one of many topics on today’s agenda.

  • Schmid had just returned after leading a cross-party delegation to Lithuania intended to ‘show solidarity’ in the face of Beijing’s pressure campaign, which intensified after the Baltic nation allowed Taiwan to open a trade office in Vilnius in using its own name, rather than “Chinese Taipei.”
  • The European Union launched a lawsuit against China at the World Trade Organization last month, accusing Beijing of quietly except all imports of Lithuanian goods and pressuring European companies to exclude Lithuania from their supply chains.

What they say : Schmid, noting how the EU trial was unusually fast, told Axios “it is vital to uphold the integrity of the EU single market” and to “stand up for smaller member states when they are intimidated by China.”

  • “The EU is not always a superpower in all respects, but when it comes to trade and economics it is a superpower. It is a regulatory superpower,” he said.
  • In addition to the WTO complaint, Schmid pointed to the EU’s development of a anti-coercion tool this will allow the bloc to fend off economic bullying from China and other countries.

The big picture: Schmid said no one in Europe is seriously talking about “decoupling” with China, given the extent to which the economies of the EU and China are “intertwined”.

  • Germany’s previous government pushed vigorously for a landmark investment deal between the EU and China, but ratification was frozen after Beijing sanctioned European lawmakers for criticism of its human rights abuses. .
  • Schmid said the deal had “loopholes” related to forced labor and will never be ratified while the sanctions remain, but added: “The Scholz government is still, in principle, in favor of a deal with China, as probably all European governments are.”
  • He also cautioned European businesses against assuming the Chinese market will continue to be as valuable to foreign investors as it has been for decades, and said other Indo -peaceful and African countries may present better opportunities as the mood towards China continues to improve. change.

James R. Rhodes