Scholz has one trump card in talks with China, but he’ll never use it — RT World News

The German Chancellor has a weak hand to play with Beijing, and would not dare do the one thing that could give him leverage

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is on a three-day visit to China. He doesn't travel alone. A large delegation of German business sector representatives is participating in the conference, including leading companies such as Mercedes, Siemens, and BMW. Schulz's agenda is ambitious: The chancellor wants to talk about international trade and competition, climate policy, tensions over Taiwan, the war in Ukraine, and Beijing's relationship with Russia. Since Iran had just used its clear right to self-defense and retaliated following Israel's unlawful attack on Tehran's diplomatic buildings in Damascus, Schulz felt compelled to make a statement about that as well.

Two of these topics stand out above the others: trade issues and the relationship between China and Russia. On trade, the crucial issue is that the West in general – led by the United States – has embarked on a policy of de facto economic warfare against China, while constantly threatening to escalate.

This was the gist Janet Yellen's recent trip to Beijing; The US Treasury Secretary arrived with a list of demands to curb what America denounced as Chinese “excess capacity” And dumping, and left with an explicit warning about it 'Nothing was off the table' Regarding additional strikes against the Chinese economy.

Then there is the European Union, which, as usual, follows Washington's lead. Under hardliners like European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice President Margrethe Vestager, Brussels is stepping up anti-China rhetoric and measures. Beijing has officially announced a Cooperation partner, economic competitor, and systemic competitor“. With the determination of the European Union Commission “Economic security” It is clearly anti-China and launching investigations targeting Chinese electric cars and wind turbines and soon their purchase Medical devicesClearly focus on the competitor and competitor.

But at the same time, German business leaders realize that they cannot afford a policy of sustained conflict. A senior Siemens executive has just made the announcement with a warning Which “the chapter” From Chinese manufacturing will take “Decades.” Obviously, this is just another way of saying that even trying is a very bad idea.

On the surface, there might seem to be an opportunity here for Schulz – an opportunist to a fault – to emerge as a mediator, or at least, to balance and weave between competing demands. the Global TimesMedia outlets owned by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China opened the chancellor's visit with a generally welcoming article, portraying Schulz, in essence, as a dove among hawks, arguing that while Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck stand for confrontation, the chancellor seeks a balanced approach. .

However, even if he wants to try to be smart and flexible, Schulz is stymied in multiple ways. He will find it difficult to be taken seriously because Germany and its Chancellor lack international standing, and Germany lacks influence in its relationship with China.

Let's look first at the leverage deficit: From an economic standpoint, Sino-German relations are fundamental and complex. There are many important factors; There are multiple relevant indicators, for example, foreign direct investment (which currently stands at $1.6 billion). dipping). But the overall trade volume is enough to show that Germany cannot talk to Beijing from a position of strength or even parity.

China, according to export data for 2023, still belongs to Germany The single largest business partner, as Bloomberg noted. This is not unusual in today's world: with the second largest economy in the world (the largest in terms of purchasing power parity), China is the world's number one trading partner. A total of 120 countries. China is also the largest (foreign) trader. a partner For the European Union as a whole. However, from China's point of view, Germany ranks alone VIII Among export destinations, less than the United States, Japan and even Vietnam.

None of the above means that the economic relationship with Berlin does not matter to Beijing, but it does mean that it is more important to Berlin. Among rational actors, this pattern of interdependence constitutes a reason for cooperation. What it is for sure no It is a unilateral influence of Germany. If anyone has the upper hand here, it is China, which may have tried “nicely” Point out this fact with Schulz's manner was interestingly calm, not to mention the insulting reception Upon his arrival in the Chinese manufacturing city of Chongqing.

Essentially, Germany, according to Data From the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a country of just 84 million people (in China, Chongqing alone is home to more than 30 million) with projected GDP growth this year falling to near zero (0.5 percent). China It has a population of more than 1.4 billion people, and its GDP is expected to grow by 4.6 percent.

In short, China's economy he have Problems, such as an over-expanded real estate sector, are inevitable and often obsessively exaggerated by the West “Afflicted China.” Germany's economy He is problem.

The German Chancellor can only play a weak role, because of the economy. There is only one way to play well, and that is politics. Schulz could create room for maneuver for Germany if he did what he did Global Times The article indicated that Beijing would like to see from him: a demonstration of some independence, and a small distance between him and the extremists who now control both Washington and Brussels.

Indeed, for China hawks in the West, the mere possibility of the German Chancellor going off script is a nightmare scenario that must be dismissed in one of the most authoritative American journals of international politics. Foreign Policy sincere An entire article, in essence, questions whether Schulz will evade and be too conciliatory toward Beijing. if Global Times Invitation sent from “An offer you shouldn't refuse.” Kindly, Foreign Policy It was the message “Don't you dare.”

Schulz must dare. That would only be rational because it's really the only trump card he has. like Foreign Policy He admits that the EU's tough approach cannot succeed if Berlin is not among its ranks. Without the European Union adhering to its rules, Washington's game will also become more challenging. That's the strength there: the ability to balance and play on both sides.

Unfortunately, this is where we encounter Schulz's very narrow limits. This is not Bismarck. Instead, we are dealing with an advisor who can be described as the most reckless and most subservient to the United States in Germany's post-World War II history. Schultz smiled when Biden declared, in essence, that the United States would destroy Nord Stream pipelines if it wanted to. When that happened, nothing happened: Germany took it and kept smiling.

Under Schulz, Berlin became an ideal US client. Accordingly, there is no real daylight between Berlin and Brussels either; Another German hardline Atlanticist, Ursula von der Leyen, runs the European Commission. It is true that some observers expect Germany to resort to shortcuts, but this would be too little, in absolute terms, for Beijing.

The issue of dependency also leads us to the penultimate irony of Schulz's visit: the German Chancellor announced that he intends to challenge Beijing over its policy toward Russia, and thus the war in Ukraine. In essence, Schulz seems to believe that it is his job – and within his rights – to urge China to ease its ties with Russia as well as to support the West's unrealistic proposals to end the war in Ukraine without acknowledging that Russia is winning it.

There are two things wrong with this surprisingly dismissive position: First, Germany and the EU are clearly not in a position to make such requests to Beijing. They have neither the arguments nor the strength to back them up. In such cases, the wisest and most dignified course of action is to remain silent. Second, and less obvious, who is Schulz to try to interfere in the partnership between Moscow and Beijing, a partnership characterized by rationality and respect for the national interests of both partners? As long as Germany presents a spectacle of absolute and irrational obedience to Washington, no one will care about its advice on how to cooperate.

This was the penultimate irony. Here's the bottom line: Schulz's visit is primarily a consequence of the fact that the West did it no I managed to convince China. With regard to Germany in particular, it is true that according to what was recently reported voteTwo-thirds of German companies operating in China complain of unequal treatment. Yet they are there. However, the German Chancellor still arrived with a plane full of business leaders.

The real message of the poll is about how important China is, they say “Remove risks” This and “the chapter” Despite that. In the not-too-distant future, Schulz's successor may find himself on a similar trip, but to Moscow. Specifically, when two facts become so compelling that they must be recognized: Russia, too, cannot be cajoled by the West; For Germany, as well as for Europe as a whole, Russia also remains an indispensable country.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of RT.

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