China, Russia, the EU, Germany and the new NATO and Indo-Pacific strategy

China, Russia, the EU, Germany and the new NATO and Indo-Pacific strategy

While the CP China is attacking Great Britain, Australia and India for forging an anti-Chinese coalition with the USA, its mouthpiece, the Global Times hopes that the EU and Germany will not follow and claim that the European interests make it more likely that the USA under Biden and the EU will be more united against Russia than against China as the EU had other „self interests“ with China than the USA. Quotation from the Global Times:

Self interests, not US ties, will determine how EU treats China

By Mu Lu Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/30 19:52:55

The EU will call on the US to seize a „once-in-a-generation“ opportunity to forge a new global alliance, in a detailed pitch to bury the tensions of the Trump era and meet the „strategic challenge“ posed by China, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing a draft plan.

The bloc and Washington have had their relations strained under US President Donald Trump. The EU and most of its member states have congratulated president-elect Joe Biden as they believe there would be a relief in US-EU tensions under Biden. However, many problems between the two sides await solutions, but the breaches are not easy to heal.

Against this backdrop, the EU thought it should move proactively to fix its problems with the US. In this regard, the bloc’s draft of policy proposals can be seen to warm the situation. Many EU-US disputes are structural. If the two cannot have a good start in recovering their ties, both would be embarrassed and it would be harder for them to take further steps.

By highlighting the „strategic challenge“ posed by China, the EU aims to show that there is consensus between the bloc and Washington. The bloc wants to start with demonstrating solidarity and then engage in core concerns with the US, such as trade and technology. 

Although Europeans often talk about China in the discussion of restarting EU-US relations, they know it is impossible to form a real anti-China alliance as they cannot give up the important economic partnership with China. This can be seen from how the bloc defines China – a cooperation partner, a negotiating partner, an economic competitor, and a systemic rival.

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday that the China-related stances in the abovementioned proposals are far from being anti-China, and they will not affect China-EU common interests in the short term. 

The EU’s draft is more of a political gesture to show goodwill to the US with the ultimate goal of assuring a better position in EU-US relations. Europeans do not want yesterday to be repeated. 

China does not necessarily need to view the move as one to form a new alliance targeted at China, Cui said, noting it is difficult for the EU and the US to make a highly coordinated alliance, and they are not capable of confronting China in many spheres. 

But we should take note that as the EU and the US emphasize their so-called common concerns (such as trade, politics and human rights), they would probably place more pressure on China in those aspects, including interfering more in China’s domestic affairs related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang. We should keep an eye on this and be prepared for what they will do next. 

From the perspective of Europe, it has been reluctant to accept China’s narrative that the two sides‘ consensus is greater than disagreement, and their cooperation greater then competition. As for Europeans, consensus and disagreement coexist while consensus comes from the settlement of disagreements. „This would be a challenge to China,“ Cui said.

Nevertheless, Europe will not treat China in an on-off way as it did during most of the time during the Cold War. Some ideological struggles could be strengthened, but there is not likely to be comprehensive hostility. How the EU deals with China is ultimately determined by the bloc’s interests.

Within the EU Germany seems tob e for China the driving power and it sees the new Indo-Pacific strategy oft he German goverment not that much as a counterstratgey against China, but as normal diversification and new strategic balancing between China and the USA:

Why Germany can confidently balance US and China relations

By Zheng Chunrong Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/1 20:13:40

The Berlin Pulse, a foreign policy publication put out by the Körber Foundation, discovered in a recent survey that 82 percent of respondents think that Germany should remain neutral in case of a Cold War between China and the US.

There are two reasons that can explain why the Germans feel this way. First of all, the historical memory of the division of Germany during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union has helped mould Germany’s diplomatic choices. Secondly, staying neutral in the game of great powers is one way to achieve the geopolitical autonomy that Germany ultimately desires. Therefore, it is reasonable that the German people would exercise restraint when being pushed to take sides between China and the US in case of a new Cold War. 

But what is the position of the German government in terms of its relations with the US and China now? For a long time, Germany has relied on the US in many aspects, especially for security. It also shares similar values with the US. But in recent years, Germany and Europe have started to feel that they should hold their own destiny more tightly in their own hands. The Trump-era US has severely jeopardized Europe-US and Germany-US relations. 

Although the election of Joe Biden offers some slim hope, the brokefn trust will be difficult to repair. They will be ever more guarded with one another. 

An article published in the daily German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel suggests that Germany and the EU must not blindly follow the US in a misguided struggle for global supremacy. It argues Germany must safeguard its interests in front of Beijing without becoming US‘ lapdog. 

Not being a US lapdog means not blindly following the US. Some observers in Germany and Europe have realized that the Americans just see the Europeans as a tool to realize their own interests. Therefore, efforts to not simply walk lockstep with the US and maintain their own independence are a constructive option, and one we can expect to see exercised with greater frequency. 

China supports Germany and Europe to pursue a strategically independent path. This means Germany should reduce its dependence on the US and make judgments based on its own interests. The guidelines for the Indo-Pacific region, which were released by the German government in September, call for diversifying Germany’s foreign relations geographically with respect to policy. Hopefully, Germany can strike a balance between China and the US and does not put all its „eggs“ into just one „basket.“

China and Germany have differences in terms of political system and ideology, but Germany can interact with China in a flexible way. In the EU-China – a strategic outlook report released in March 2019, the EU defined China as a cooperation partner, negotiating partner, economic competitor, and systemic rival. 

That being said, China is Germany’s largest trading partner and partner in terms of coping with climate change. Germany’s flexibility lies in its ability to carry out pragmatic cooperation with China in certain areas based on its own interests. As for divergences, the two can solve problems through dialogues and building up political trust.

Indeed, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to President Xi Jinping on November 24, she expressed her hopes to step up efforts with China to conclude negotiations on the EU-China investment treaty by the end of this year. If the treaty can be reached, it would be a very positive signal for the two countries‘ future cooperation. But meanwhile, strengthening cooperation may also increase Germany’s defensive psychology against China. 

What Germany needs to do is not to fall prey to ideological blindness like the US and instead seek pragmatic economic and trade cooperation efforts. Why complicate China-Germany relations over trivial matters?

Despite different European stances, Germany’s leadership in the EU has made it possible to raise much of its own agenda to the bloc level. Berlin can even shape the common agenda of the EU as a responsible leader. Thus, Germany’s relations with the US and China will be of great significance and have a big impact on the world as it manages a deft diplomatic balancing act. 

The author is director of German Studies of Tongji University.

The Indo-Pacific strategy of the German government which shall become the blueprint for a European Indo-Pacific strategy is perceived as nothing real threatening to China´s interests. . However, the term Indo-Pacific was first created by the USA and the Trump administration. It replaced the old geographical concept of the Asia-Pacific. Under Trump the Indo- Pacific strategy pronounced an economic  decoupling and containment strategy against China. The German Indo-Pacific strategy pronounces that decoupling and containment and confrontation with China was not desirable. Germany had to see that Asia is the new center of world politics and the world economy and that Germany had to realize this. Germany should reduce its dependence from China, diversify its economic and political relations and focus on the ASEAN which were also the frontrunner for RCEP in Asia.

This also has concrete German experience as a background as Germany and the EU are pushing free trade agreements, be it CETA with Canada, JEFTA with Japan, the Latin American Mercusor, and an EU free trade area with Africa and its newly formed African continental free trade area has recently been discussed. But when Modi-India withdrew from the RCEP, Merkel-Germany proposed an EU-India free trade agreement on behalf of the EU, which was also rejected by Modi-India, although Germany and India have no Himalaya conflicts. As a democracy and because of its protectionist voters, India can never become the ruthless economic powerhouse in Asia as China is. Conversely, the conversation about an EU-China free trade agreement has been going on for a long time, but so far Germany and the EU are backing away, probably because they fear China’s economic size and clout and unfair methods and it is currently not even enough to reach an investment protection agreement. Therefore, for the time being, the ASEAN countries are the first choice left. In addition, the USA and the WTO wanted to focus on bilateral and not multilateral agreements thanks to Trump’s America First protectionism, and both Biden and Modi are under democratic pressure from parts of their often protectionist voters. China, on the other hand, as a one-man dictatorship, can present itself as a reliable supermarket, an economic powerhouse that has left the Covid crisis behind and does not have to take any domestic political considerations into account can portray itself as an exemplary and contract-loyal Pacta sunt servanda freetrader and multilateralist.

While RCEP has just excluded labor and environmental protection conditions, the German Indo-Pacific Strategy wants that Germany must use the EU internal market leverage to strengthen a value-oriented, ecological, multilateral policy and pursue an inclusive approach, also towards China, which however should not be understood as the main center of all German foreign policy perspectives.

As an export nation, Germany had also to support the freedom of navigation in the open seas and even militarily support this goal and like-minded allies. In the German version Indo-Pacific doesn´t mean a defined geographical area, but a geopolitical and geoeconomic space. While the French government already had a Indo-Pacific strategy and already send some military ships to this region, , even to the Malaba drills, Great Britain is building a new naval base in Singapur along the already existing US naval base. German defense minister Anngeret Kramp- Karrenbauer already proposed to send German military ships to the Indo- Pacific and to build and support alliances with Indo-Pacific partners, especially Australia. The German government wants to push its Indo-Pacific strategy within the EU and to integrate it with the French Indo-Pacific strategy to design an EU Indo-Pacific strategy. NATO for the first time declared China as a new challenge for the transatlantic military alliance. It remains to be seen if Germany´s plans for an Indo-Pacific strategy will see a unilateral approach which is unlikely or a European pillar, militarily relying on Frech and German vessels, maybe even with British as it seems unlikely that a Global NATO will appear or NATO extends its reach to the Indo-Pacific. As European ships in the Indo-Pacific are more a symbolic act than real militarily decisive hard power, it remains to be seen if they will join the Quad drills or the Malabar maneuvers and the East Europeans won´t like that idea too much as they perceive this as a distraction from the European NATO front against Russia and have to be convinced by other incentives for NATO. Another big project will be a EU-ASEAN free trade agreement after the EU already signed FTAs with Japan, Singapur and Vietnam and is negotiating with Indonesia at the moment.

However, the Global Times article speaks of „trivial interests“, but for Germany and the EU intellectual property protection, 16 plus 1 group as the new Chinese backyard of Europe, lacking repricisostity in investments and the open seas for the freedom of navigation are not just trivial matters. The Global Times also is accustomed to a Merkel government, but Merkel will leave her position in 2021 and we don´t know who the successor will be. It is also likely that a black-green government will be elected and for the Green party human rights, Hongkong, Taiwan, the Uigurs won´t be a trival matter. However, China could channel this if it canalises this against Russia and Putin and raise ist acceptance in Germany and the EU by portraying itself a new power for multilateralism, free trade, ecology and climate protection. And it is possible that under Biden Germany and the EU will be much more against Russia than against China.

At the same time some Western media air speculations if Putin had cancer. So-called Kremlin insiders and Putin critics are the sources and the rumors spread from cancer to Parkinson and that he wanted to choose his daughter as successor. Wow, a North Korean dynasty in Russia. Perfect timing as the news or fake news spreads at exactly the date of the election victory for Biden who wrote a programmatic article in the Foreign Affairs how to deal with Putin-Russia. Hope and wishful thinking for regime change in Russia and Belarussia seems to be in the air again as nobody believes in regime changes in China anymore and that everything would be better without Putin.. Therefore the question is if this is fake news which wants to undermine Putin´s position or real or if Putin made his constitutional reform because he already knew that he had cancer and wanted to have a structural stable Russia after his death. Well, we also don´t know if Putin is pregnant and if Navalny will be the father of their child and also who will be a possible successor for Putin as beyond Russian democrats there are also enough nationalists and fascists like Zhirinovsky. We just have to wait to see what is the old-fashioned Kremlin astrology or fact.

However, beyond the new Indo-Pacific strategy of the German government, there are now efforts to come to a new NATO strategy. A NATO report was just published, chaired by the former German defense minister Thomas de Maizierre and Wess Mitchell, liaison representative between the USA and Europe during the Trump administration. It is a blueprint for a NATO 2030 which shouldn´t be braindead or obsolete, but see Russia and China as new great powers and broaden tits influence and alliances to Asia, Beyond that there hast o be a new deterrence strategy that incorporates and integrates all-new disruptive technologies and weapons systems. The report will be the base for a new NATO strategy which might be decided in the next year 2021.

However, the Trump supporters are not dead, but the Daily Beast reports that Trump had the plan to declare his renewed US president’s candidature for 2024 at the day of the inauguration of US president-elect Biden. However, if Trump could maintain a sort of 4 years election campaign and continued mobilization of his followers and get the support of the other Republicans is an unknown factor. However, Biden´s foreign policy will be under the scrutiny of the Trumpists and many Republicans. And if a Mike Pompeo or a Mike Pence or a new shooting star will occur in the Republican camp is unsure and might be not that much better, but an America First 2.0.

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