China’s President Xi Jinping and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz have the same favorite word. The chancellor’s short trip to Beijing now shows that the Chinese and Germans understand something fundamentally different by “respect”.
Xi Jinping speaks of “mutual respect” and leaving “differences” out of the equation. With that, all has been said. The party emperor, who has just been crowned for life by his claqueurs, continues to do what he wants more than ever.
And he certainly won’t let Olaf Scholz, the man who hasn’t even been in office for a year, stop him. When Xi says “mutual respect,” you have to translate that from diplomatic to real.
“Respect” is what Chinese Xi demands of his interlocutor Scholz in this blatantly asymmetrical relationship between the two statesmen.
After all, Xi has no problem with the fact that Germany has chosen to be a democracy in which minority rights are respected.
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It’s Scholz who has a problem with China being a dictatorship where minority rights start putting minorities like the Muslim Uyghurs in concentration camps to “re-educate” them.
You know that from German history, the dictatorial part. “Respect” in Chinese means “genuine”: What we do as a consequence of the system inequality is only our concern. At least not you.
Of course, Scholz says what needs to be said on this bizarre visit, namely: Human rights are “universal”, which is why it is not about “interference in internal affairs”.
It just doesn’t help that Scholz says that. Because such “respect” is China’s foreign policy state doctrine. In other words: the red line that no other state leader in China is allowed to cross.
Because Scholz knows that, of course, the human rights sentences also sound as dutiful as a necessary message that has to be sent from Beijing to Berlin because morally driven people, such as the Greens, demand it that way.
Olaf Scholz says in Beijing that sanctions against members of the European Parliament “are not acceptable to us”. And now? Will Xi lift the entry ban for Green MP Reinhard Bütikofer, a profound expert on China and therefore a critic? Hardly likely.
Such things are simply folklore – a ritual that does not change the existing conditions. A rhetorical reassurance to be on the right moral side after all. A confirmation phrase that has no consequences.
Did Scholz just announce that as long as MEP Bütikofer is on the Chinese sanctions list, Germany will not allow any Chinese MEPs to enter the country either? Exactly, he didn’t, the chancellor.
However, that would have been “political reciprocity” after all. “Reciprocity” is something that is now being talked about a lot. This means that if the Chinese are allowed to invest in European ports or a German port terminal, German companies must also be allowed to invest in Chinese ports or at least port terminals. But that is precisely what is out of the question for the Chinese.
The German Chancellor can demand as much “market access” and “protection of intellectual property” as he wants. The reason for the Chinese refusal to create a “level playing field” with the Germans and the West, i.e. mutual equality, is the new Chinese development doctrine.
And Xi confirmed it again at the CP party congress that just ended. “Self-sufficiency” is China’s goal. So the increasing independence from the West. Which is meant strategically and in no way speaks against globalization.
BASF is allowed to build a plant in southern China for ten billion euros, larger than the one in Ludwigshafen. But not because that would be good for BASF. But because it is good for China.
From the Chinese perspective, the Chinese BASF plant is a piece of more prosperity for China. And a piece of Western technology transfer in a key sector, the chemical industry.
And Western high-tech, that’s what the Chinese are particularly keen on. Another example makes this clear.
Next to Olaf Scholz is the outgoing Prime Minister Li Kequiang this Friday morning. As a side note, he says that it is almost impossible to hear that China is “still a developing country” when it comes to climate policy. What that means? Translated from Chinese to real:
Germany should please understand if the Chinese continue to focus on their economic development instead of on climate protection. Germany should provide climate policy development aid.
And preferably with what Germany does best: its engineering achievements. Which kindly provides it to China. Because that serves everyone, namely the global climate.
irony off. Only, dear readers: You have to explain it like this. German and Chinese politicians use the same vocabulary, but charge it completely differently. What sounds like fundamental agreement is in fact a fundamental disagreement. Example Taiwan.
Scholz says the federal government is “concerned” about Taiwan. But Scholz also says that the federal government stands by the one-China policy. But both are mutually exclusive, it is an internal German contradiction, because a one-China policy means that there is only one China for Germany too, namely the one governed by communism.
And not two, in addition to the Red dictatorship also a democracy with a complete set of human rights. One China policy means: If China invades Taiwan, Germany will do nothing.
What a violation of “value-based foreign policy”: Germany is supplying arms to Ukraine because it is defending “our freedom” against the Russians.
It would be exactly the same with Taiwan: Taiwan would also defend “our freedom” in the event of a Chinese attack. But Taiwan must not be Ukraine.
Olaf Scholz hopes that, even if the world is rushing and roaring, everything will somehow continue as it did with Angela Merkel. But not even Germany’s industry is convinced of this anymore, whose leading association BDI is now the “team caution” in relation to China.
The Chinese government has just sealed off the Foxconn compound and people are flocking to try to flee the world’s largest Apple factory.
Apple is now building its new iPhone in India, a democracy, in a Taiwanese factory. Maybe that’s the right answer.