Amid the backdrop of intensifying Cold-War-style tensions, there appears to be increasing worries about the prospect of relations between China and Germany in both countries.
In Beijing, from scholars to government officials to the business community, people are wondering how far Germany, a key European partner in economy and trade over the past decades, will go in supporting the United States-led Western initiative to contain, if not deter, a rising China. Likewise, in Berlin, questions are being asked of their country's relations with China, which despite being an economic and trade partner that has proved to be instrumental and dependable is now broadly demonized in the West under the dubious auspices of the US.
Since China has officially been defined as a systemic rival by the European Union and a potential challenger to European security by NATO, how should Germany, a key member of both institutions, recalibrate its China policy? Should it jump on the anti-China bandwagon and seek to decouple from China?
As China-bashing increasingly becomes a central element in present-day Western political correctness, even German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on his country's companies to diversify supply chains and avoid relying too much on China at a recent news conference.
That came after the German foreign minister had already admitted that Germany was intensively looking into reducing its economic dependence on China.
But has anything so bad happened to the China-Germany relations that the two countries have lost the common ground for even maintaining their mutually beneficial economic and trade ties? Are such ties so toxic to the German economy that they have to be cut off altogether? Is Germany ready for the effects of the proposed decoupling? Does it think the US will compensate it for its losses?
Some recent German studies present a picture of how closely interwoven the Chinese and German economies have grown, and how badly the German economy may suffer from decoupling.
A study by the German Institute for Economic Research found the German economy had become more dependent on China in the first half of 2022 than it had been in the past. "The German economy is much more dependent on China than the other way round," said Jürgen Matthes, who authored the study. German investment in China, for instance, far exceeded the highest half-year record since 2000. Another study by the Ifo Institute, commissioned by the Bavarian Industry Association, had the same conclusion, warning of heavy German losses in the event of the European Union and Germany decoupling from China.
In the last days of her tenure, former German chancellor Angela Merkel had warned that a complete decoupling from China is wrong, and would hurt the EU and Germany.
The present economic reality calls for reason and pragmatism that have nurtured the mutually beneficial relations, especially as the sanctions on Russia acerbate economic woes throughout Europe.