In recent days there has been a heated debate as to whether China should enter a container terminal in the port of Hamburg. The zeitgeist is pushing for isolation from system rivals. At least the US would like that.

The Americans are urging the Germans to break with their previous China policy. Uncle Sam calls to us across the Atlantic: We want you! With the FDP and the Greens, but also with Jens Spahn and Friedrich Merz, the USA encountered a violent nodding movement.

In the debate about a possible Chinese entry into a container terminal in the port of Hamburg, Spahn sounds like the adopted son of Biden and Trump: “One lesson from the pandemic and the energy crisis is: We have to become more independent of China.”

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Merz, Lindner, Habeck – all seconded as if the conscription order had been issued from Washington. The word “partnership” has recently been translated as “dependency” across party lines and ghosts are everywhere.

The new virologists are the military, who have suddenly discovered dependencies and security gaps in many places since the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Every motorway junction and also the minority stake in a port terminal have recently become part of the security-relevant infrastructure.

The chancellor is still keeping a low profile. But Olaf Scholz – who will be traveling to China in a few days accompanied by the head of Siemens, BDI President and VW CEO – is clearly finding it difficult to maintain the position he has developed over the years as mayor of the port city of Hamburg, which is geared towards free trade.

The zeitgeist is pushing for isolation from system rivals. The price and the quality of a product or service should no longer be decisive, but the political views of the supplier and the greatest possible intersection with the values ​​of the West.

This zeitgeist is blowing over from Washington to Berlin. The medium-sized exporter – just a moment ago the hero of the Germany model – suddenly has to make a declaration. The world smells of protectionism.

The economic advantages of a policy of isolation are obvious for America. If you intensify trade with the friendly states of the North Atlantic Free Trade Area – ie Canada and Mexico – and NATO – ie France, Italy and Germany – the result is an almost closed western economic cycle.

Dollar dominance applies here. This is where Wall Street writes the rules of the game. This is where Silicon Valley defines the technological standard. The situation is different for the Federal Republic. After the frenzy of nationalism and the subsequent world war, our country focused on international understanding and global trade.

Brandt’s motto “change through rapprochement”, which was quickly interpreted as “change through trade”, was the new gold standard for our economic relations – not just those with the Eastern bloc.

“The premature swan song to the ‘change through trade’ model does not go far enough. Forming blocs cannot be our answer,” said the outgoing VW boss Herbert Diess at his last general meeting addressing the USA and his DAX colleagues, who often seemed paralyzed on political issues.

The politicians from government and opposition should at least listen to the arguments of the businessman. It is time to push through to an independent German or European position. Here are five solid arguments why Germany should not be ashamed of its interests and should resist American unbundling ideas:

1. The conciliatory motto of trade that promotes change also had a transforming effect on Germany, which had cultivated the idea of ​​autarky during the Nazi era. The export model – and the cosmopolitanism of the companies it required – was part of Germany’s re-integration into the world. The liberal attitude – also towards cultures foreign to us – was economically rewarded and experienced by many Germans as culturally gratifying.

2. The German economy was only able to meet many of its obligations at home – for example the financing of the world’s most expensive welfare state – because it was committed abroad. The wage cost advantages in Asia and the high share of the welfare state in the German gross domestic product are two sides of the same coin. Or to put it another way: social peace in Germany is being defended in the Chinese Yangtze River Delta.

3. The direct investments of foreign companies and states bring not only an injection of money, but also secure orders. If, for example, the entry of the Chinese as a minority company in the port of Hamburg is banned by the state, the Chinese could in future handle part of their cargo to be unloaded in Europe via Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Antwerp. Hamburg would lose an investor and significant sales.

4. A withdrawal for political reasons, as we have now seen in Russia, devalues ​​the assets built up over decades. In particular, a withdrawal from China would amount to expropriation, to a certain extent self-expropriation, of the German economy. This would leave its mark on the balance sheets of Volkswagen, BASF, Thyssenkrupp and those of family companies in the “hidden champion” category in particular.

5. The first victims of a politicized foreign trade regime that values ​​security aspects more than price ratios would be German consumers. Because: A security surcharge on all products or even on all strategically important goods would mean an artificial shortage of supply and thus rising prices – as can just be seen in the gas market. America’s concept of decoupling is, for us, an inflation driver of the first order.

Conclusion: When Olaf Scholz flies to China in the coming week, he should take the book “National Interests” by his party friend Klaus von Dohnanyi into the cabin. Even when it comes to China policy, writes the now 94-year-old Social Democrat, a German politician should not be deterred.

The interests of the USA are always based on hard geopolitical and economic principles: “The USA has a tradition of covering up its power interests with humanitarian arguments and must not deceive us.” The Europeans should – also bearing in mind this realization – not separate themselves from the Americans – only emancipate themselves .

Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.