The protests in China put the traffic light in need of explanation. Because Scholz has only just decided on economic interests in dealing with the regime. But now he has to react differently if he is serious about the traffic light promises.

Is the traffic light fundamentally on the wrong side of history? When Russian troops attacked Ukraine in violation of international law at the end of February and instigated a war in Europe, political Berlin is said to have assumed that Ukraine would quickly collapse.

The processes for arms deliveries and humanitarian aid for the invaded country turned out to be correspondingly cumbersome when this did not happen and Berlin may have seemed surprised about it. The partners in the EU and in the USA had to urge Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to participate comprehensively in the defense efforts of the Ukrainians by supplying arms.

Scholz also acts questionably when dealing with China, although one could have learned from the dependency on Russia. But the Chancellor, single-handedly, against his two coalition partners and the good advice of the German partners in Europe, allowed the People’s Republic of China to acquire a share of critical German infrastructure, namely a terminal at the Port of Hamburg. Immediately afterwards, Scholz went to China accompanied by a business delegation. The trip primarily served business interests. Realism beat idealism: China is the way it is, one may resign, but we remain trading partners.

Alexander Görlach is Honorary Professor of Ethics at Leuphana University in Lüneburg and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. The PhD linguist and theologian is currently working on a project on “digital cosmopolitanism” at the Internet Institute of the University of Oxford and the Faculty of Philosophy at New York University.

Alexander Görlach was a Fellow and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University in the USA and Cambridge University in England. After stints in Taiwan and Hong Kong, he has focused on the rise of China and what it means for East Asian democracies in particular. He has recently published the following titles: “Red Alert: Why China’s Aggressive Foreign Policy in the Western Pacific Is Leading to a Global War” (Hoffmann

From 2009 to 2015, Alexander Görlach was also the publisher and editor-in-chief of the debate magazine The European, which he founded. Today he is a columnist and author for various media such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the New York Times. He lives in New York and Berlin.

A few weeks later, Scholz is duped. Because the people in China have begun to revolt against the dictatorship, against the corona measures and the government’s mass tests. It seems likely that the Chancellery, like other government headquarters, was caught off guard by the protests.

The reaction of the people in China is so understandable, almost inevitable. Around 400 million still have to endure a lockdown. If new cases occur in a block of flats, then there is again up to 100 days of isolation. The nerves are accordingly blank. A high-rise building fire that killed 10 people and a quarantine bus accident that killed 27 people are blamed by the protesters on the government. At the moment it’s a David versus Goliath fight: a few thousand protesters rebelling against the supremacy of the totalitarian surveillance state.

As in the case of Ukraine, there seems to be a lack of imagination in political Berlin that something that is superficially unthinkable can actually happen. The SPD in particular lives off the dictum of one of its chancellors that anyone who has visions should kindly see a doctor. The head of state, Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier, has warned Beijing not to encroach on the freedom of expression of Chinese citizens.

The point is: There is no freedom of speech and assembly in China. The Green MEP Rainer Bütikofer went further and said that one would look closely at how the people’s republic is proceeding against its population and that sanctions would also be imposed if necessary. Whether that will cause those responsible in Beijing to shy away from the use of violence unfortunately remains questionable.

But one thing is already certain: the “change through trade” approach, supplemented with pious gestures and a formal mention of human rights, in order to then move on to making money, is not enough. For the first time since 1989, there is a tear in the Iron Curtain, which Beijing wants to use to shield its population from the rest of the world. If the traffic light government takes the values ​​it propagates seriously, it must be closer to these few people than to the powerful party apparatus.

The voices of the protesters make it clear that they not only want an end to the forced lockdowns, but freedom and democracy, freedom of expression and a free press. In principle, they want to be like the neighboring, democratic island country of Taiwan.

Red Alert: How China’s aggressive foreign policy in the Pacific is leading to a global war

This development is a nightmare for Beijing. For a long time, Taiwan has been considered the “better China”, as a kind of alternative way of life for the 1.4 billion people on the mainland. Taiwan, which has its own government, army and currency, has never been ruled from communist Beijing. Despite this, ruler Xi claims that Taiwan belongs to China. As in Hong Kong, Xi wants to level Taiwan’s democracy in order to take away from his subjects any viable alternative to his surveillance fascism.

The position taken by the government in Berlin can also have an impact on how Xi proceeds towards Taiwan. Because the people in the small country, which I was able to visit again for FOCUS online for the first time in three years, are just as willing to fight for their freedom and their country as the Ukrainians. Should China attack Taiwan, Berlin will have to supply arms and support the island.

Then there is no need to look away. That stands in the way of the “good, old maxim” of making money. Scholz’s advice to the People’s Republic to buy the Biontech vaccine from Mainz now, because one has had good experiences with vaccinations in Germany, tries again, good and a little to combine critical advice with business. Regarding the protests, a spokesman only said that the government would keep an eye on developments.

If the federal government’s new China strategy has been drafted in the meantime, it can be thrown away right away. Strategic ambiguity, with which Germany has repeatedly made a slender foot in the past, must give way to the willingness to speak for the demonstrators and, in the United Nations, for example, to become their mouthpiece. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock did that successfully and sided with the people of Iran. That was a strong signal from the Greens politician, which would now also be necessary in the direction of China – if the federal government was serious about its promise of a value-based foreign policy.