The following is an article about the PR China as a threat to the free world and the question of what a more confrontational China policy could look like, whereby the author, former director of Deutsche Bank and business journalist, says: “A paradigm shift requires understanding the consequences. The German elite traditionally shy away from that. „
Author: Klaus Leciejewski
Klaus Leciejewski studied philosophy and history at the University of Leipzig and at the Humboldt University in Berlin, and did his doctorate and habilitation on economic history topics. He later moved to the Federal Republic with his family. First he taught economics at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, later as an honorary lecturer in business administration at various other universities and colleges. He was director of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt am Main, managing director of various management consultancies and founded his own management consultancy, KDL-Consulting GmbH, in 2000, which specialized in personnel consulting (executive search, headhunting and IT consulting). Since 2010 he has been working exclusively as a publicist. Since 2015 he has been living in Havana / Cuba with his Cuban wife for most of the year.
China: Threat to the Free World
The Greens and the FDP want to change German policy towards China. Away from the cuddle course to more criticism. However, this paradigm shift requires consequences, because China’s long arm is frightening. The party leaderships of the Greens and FDP were already completely in agreement before the coalition talks began: German policy towards China must change. The future German government must clearly oppose the increasing repression of freedom at home and the aggressive foreign policy, with the Greens concentrating more on human rights violations and the FDP more on global power efforts.
The CDU, the SPD and the heads of numerous German corporations will have heard this intended change in foreign policy with a shudder, while human rights organizations, the USA, Japan, Great Britain and Australia hope that actions will follow these announcements. However, this is not certain, since a changed German China policy would also have to include changes to EU states, the USA and numerous other states as well as international organizations. A paradigm shift requires understanding the consequences. The German elite traditionally shy away from this.
Changes in China
After Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, Western countries were confident that China would continue to pursue a policy of democratic change domestically and economic competition in terms of foreign policy. This assessment was naive at best from a political point of view, but in fact it was based on a criminally dangerous misjudgment. On the one hand, this was not surprising, because at this point in time China had modernized itself enormously over 30 years through a capitalist economic course. At the same time, millions of Chinese had visited Western countries (or studied there), as had masses of Western tourists travelled to China year after year. China had opened up. On the other hand, however, this assessment was astonishing because, even after the times of Deng, the leadership of China was always in the hands of a small leadership group that had never cast doubt on its communist ideology. The idea of a peaceful coexistence of opposing social systems, which originated in the final phase of European communism and was absurdly unreal even then, had persisted over time in parts of the Western elite, which is not as one-sidedly irrational as it may seem, it does arise from a basic human attitude to think less in the dimension of a warlike than in that of a peaceful coexistence, even though history after the Second World War, and especially that of the USA, does not offer much for this. At the latest when Xi was elected head of state with unlimited time in 2018, which was nothing more than the formal legalization of a lifelong dictatorship, the West should not have had any more illusions after the historical experience with communist dictators. Giving up illusions in politics, however, means admitting mistakes in previous politics and thus possibly endangering re-election. The essential changes in Chinese domestic and foreign policy are also well documented in Germany, although they are not equally well known, and their interpretation is contradictory. The following facts are mainly taken from German-language media, especially from the NZZ.
International: power comes before business
The Chinese Navy has more ship units than the US Navy and has thus replaced it as the world’s largest navy: Although qualitatively it cannot be equated with the US Navy (modern nuclear submarine flotilla, numerous aircraft carriers and more), it does It also has nuclear submarines, 27 guided missile destroyers and 60 frigates, and the 4th aircraft carrier is under construction. According to international reports, China is building around 200 new silos for ballistic ICBMs, thereby expanding its nuclear armed force.
The Chinese fishing fleet is larger than the fishing fleets of all other countries combined: It is present in all the world’s oceans and on most of the coasts, it is highly equipped with information technology, and it collects information worldwide not only about fish stocks, but also about all data available to them on the nature of the sea, the coastal structures and the state of the ports and other things that are centrally summarized and evaluated in China. The Chinese leadership thus has a leap in information that is unique in the world. In addition, it does not adhere to international agreements on the use of the seas, especially if states with a long coastline do not have adequate coastal protection.
China has border disputes on land and at sea with almost all neighboring countries: Despite short-term wars with India and Vietnam, China refuses international meditation. still threatens India with war if it does not agree to border changes. In particular, China insists on the so-called „nine-dash-line“ with which it claims marine areas in the South China Sea outside its own 200 nautical mile zone and at the same time within that of all neighboring countries. In this area it has already occupied some islands and developed them into military bases, without resistance from the West. The Permanent Court of Justice in The Hague dismissed these claims as a violation of international law in a 2016 judgment. China does not recognize this jurisprudence and wants to enforce its view worldwide. For example, if western companies want to have school books, scientific works, atlases and other items printed in China that also contain regional or world maps, they must contain the Chinese version of the borders, including those to India and Vietnam. In addition, this card must be included in all national and international specialist articles (on any topic) by Chinese authors. A number of western corporations have already bowed to the Chinese claim. China endeavors to obtain consent to its territorial claims in treaties with unaffected states, especially in Africa, as well as in international organizations.
In the past two or three years, China has massively increased its diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan: the violation of the territorial waters and airspace of Taiwan with warships and fighter planes has been expanded considerably. States that establish closer diplomatic relations with Taiwan are threatened at least verbally or directly sanctioned, especially smaller states such as Lithuania, whose economic strength and diplomatic influence are low. China consistently rejects Taiwan’s participation in international organizations or agreements. The parallels to the historically known appeasement policy are almost obvious.
The „New Silk Road“ has a hybrid function, ultimately it serves the Chinese hegemonic endeavors: The project of a New Silk Road, presented by Xi in 2013 with great propaganda effort, is to cover 70 countries with around 4 billion people. Internationally it is also called the “Belt Road Initiative”, which also includes other Asian and African countries. This initiative comes from a communist-dictatorial country. Now, not every initiative emanating from China is per se a danger, neither for the global economy nor for democratic states, just because it emanates from a country with a different social system. However, it must be taken into account that, according to communist ideology, the future of all peoples lies in communism and this ideology forms the spiritual basis of China. That initiative – praised by numerous Western observers as breathtaking – has a hybrid character. By developing infrastructures and logistics, it serves trade with China and thus directly the economy of the countries concerned. Indirectly and ultimately it is intended to help keep Xi and the close leadership group of the Communist Party in power.
It makes a difference whether an international economic initiative is initiated by a democratic state with market economy structures or by a dictatorship with ultimately central state economic control. A number of European countries and companies have ignored this difference, as the short-term benefits of Chinese investments were more important to them than long-term dependencies. China already operates its own terminals in 14 European ports or owns shares in them. The Chinese already operate around two thirds of the 50 largest terminals in the world. China has risen to become the world’s largest public creditor via the “Silk Road”.
As a state, China is taking risks that western private companies cannot take. This also includes China’s efforts to secure the raw material base of its industrial development. For example, China is the largest aluminum producer with a world share of over 50 percent, for which it secures worldwide access to bauxite deposits. As with all other raw materials, this is not competition between private companies, but between Chinese companies secured by the state and private Western companies, i.e. not between equals.
China is determined to expand its influence in international organizations: China has now become the second largest contributor to the UN and has expanded its dominance in the UN peacekeeping missions. In the UN, in its sub-organizations and in all other international organizations, it fills management positions in a targeted manner or launches people from developing countries who are suitable for it. At the same time, it influences their publications on a benevolent public image for China. Two examples of this:
In the WHO, a former Ethiopian minister only got to the top with the help of China. This led to serious wrong decisions by the WHO at the beginning of the corona outbreak. The latter later agreed that the international commission of inquiry should be made up of equal numbers of Chinese and international scientists, who both had to approve the final report (which was barely taken into account in the main German media), making it worthless.
The World Bank has presented a so-called “Doing Business” report every year since 2000, which was supposed to measure the global economic climate, broken down into 190 countries. When China fell from 78th to 85th place in 2018, it influenced the then Bulgarian Vice President Kristalina Georgiewa to manipulate the scientific basis of this report. Together with her colleague Simeon Djomkow, a former Bulgarian finance minister, they succeeded. The subsequent international protest led to the discontinuation of this report in 2020. This did not have a negative impact on Georgieva’s further career, because in a kind of castling with Christine Lagarde (to the ECB) she moved to the top of the IMF, although she had already passed the applicable age limit of 65 years. She was socialized in communist Bulgaria, where she took her first steps in her career, then rose to the top of the EU administration and, as managing director of the World Bank, she was an important supporter of China’s ambitions to become a world power. In this way career circles can close, incidentally with the support of the German government. The former German UN ambassador, Christoph Heusgen, made it very clear in an interview that China was blackmailing other countries, for example he had seen African ambassadors at the UN reading out Chinese speech slips. He did not say what Germany was doing about it, or why it had supported Frau Georgiewa.
China is striving to have access to all data of domestic and foreign companies: Two new laws, the Data Protection Act and the Data Security Act, force all domestic and foreign companies to make all their data available to the Chinese government, whether electronically or on paper. Even Google was forced to save the data it gathered and used in China on Chinese servers. The goal of these laws is not the protection of data, but rather the government’s complete control over it, i.e. data sovereignty. „National interests“ are given as the reason for this. This also legitimizes access to data that is located outside of China, so that international companies can also be forced to open their servers not located in China to Chinese controllers if they want to continue doing business with China. However, the Chinese authorities proceed in a differentiated manner, because small and medium-sized companies are easier to force to disclose their data than large corporations, whereby their security is a deceptive one, but this does not affect their board members, because they only have five-year contracts.
All Chinese who stay in other countries for long periods of time are subject to state control and serve to obtain information: China maintains an extensive system of monitoring Chinese managers, engineers, business people and other people abroad. The embassies as well as the local residents of the foreign secret service serve this purpose. No member of the Communist Party can refuse the invitation to report regularly on his professional activity, his professional and personal environment or on competitive companies and also on the country of his residence as a whole. If non-KP members reject them, their chances of being broadcast abroad again are slim. Every student studying abroad is a member of a locally based but centrally controlled Chinese student organization that has its own offices in numerous countries. If your study abroad is paid for by the Chinese government, your obligations arise automatically. This gives China extensive information about social conditions, technical developments and political constellations. How the secret service evaluates these, weighs them, passes them on to the leadership of the party and how they are then used at the top level is another matter.
National: socialism with Chinese characteristics
The entrepreneurial freedom of numerous companies is drastically restricted: For more than a year, the Chinese government has been issuing restrictions on large companies on an almost monthly basis, until now mainly for IT groups. Companies are split up by order of the government, owners give up their influence and parts of their assets, can no longer leave China, the state becomes a partner or appoints new board members. By pointing out that the fight against monopolies was an original international concern, the Chinese government hushed up the fact that it was concerned with regaining power over these monopolies.
The larger private companies are forced to tolerate so-called party cells, which are under the direct control of the higher party bodies and which have the right to veto corporate decisions in the event of a dispute. This campaign makes it clear to Chinese private entrepreneurs and also to Western investors that property rights and entrepreneurial freedom in a communist system are not intrinsic characteristics of the system, but are only tolerated for a period of time. All ideas or claims of German politicians and entrepreneurs about the independence of Chinese companies have proven to be totally illusory from the start using the well-known example of Huawei, in complete contrast to the assessments of other countries. China wants to catch up with its technological deficit (for example chip development) compared to Western states through traditional central government planning: no western argumentation is required for this. In October 2020, shortly before the world’s largest IPO, the best-known Chinese entrepreneur, Jack Ma, owner of Alibaba, delivered the Chinese Amazon clone by publicly and directly criticizing the government’s efforts to regulate companies and markets ever further . He said strikingly: „Innovations arise primarily in markets, innovations arise at the grassroots level, innovations come from young people,“ and added: „In order for real innovations to happen, no one is allowed to lead the way.“ Thereby he had attacked Xi and his fate was sealed. A Western observer commented that companies like “Alibaba” are first glorified as “national champions” only to fall into disgrace almost overnight, which means that even before their profits existed only at the mercy of the party leadership.
All individual property rights collapse in the power of Xi. The leadership of the Communist Party uses so-called regulators who are only subordinate to it, but not to a state bureaucracy. Xi differentiates between so-called consumer groups (service sector) and productive groups (for example in the production of chips). In the latter, the state is trying to catch up with the West with the help of extensive investments. In a global competitive situation, this is initially completely legitimate. However, since these goals are largely financed with state loans, they first override this international competition in order to then make other states dependent on China, i.e. not competition between private companies, but between a communist state and private Western companies.
In the new five-year plan, China wants to reduce its dependency on exports for economic development by strengthening domestic demand: the share of Chinese private consumption in total economic management is around 38 percent, in the EU over 60 and in the USA over 70. This is the reason for Chinese economic growth disproportionately from foreign trade. All efforts by the government to reduce this have so far shown no significant success, but have nonetheless increased private lending to state banks. If international demand for Chinese products were to decline, domestic debt would have to rise further in order to achieve this government-set goal. The indebtedness of all economic sectors should be over 300 percent of the total economic output. Although there is no verifiable detailed information on this, Western analyzes assume that state-owned companies in particular, but also private ones, have already reached over-indebtedness – measured by western standards. The state intercepts this for domestic political reasons (for example “Evergrande”), but cannot increase the productivity of these companies and will also fall into the inflation trap.
There are different assessments of the relevance and informative value of Chinese statistics in Western countries: Generally, in a dictatorship, the emergence of statistics cannot be checked internationally. So if caution is advised, this does not mean that every static number is wrong from the outset, after all, China’s economic growth is unmistakable, and ultimately it has also declined, but this does not generally rule out manipulation, as is often the case in social statistics, for example can prove contradicting numbers. Some western observers have doubts about the 4 percent unemployment rate and rather assume 10 to 14 percent, and economic growth could also have been shown permanently too high by around 2 percent. Xi also indirectly admits this when he publicly emphasizes a difference between “fictional growth” and “real growth”. The predominantly positive Western assessments are generally not wrong, but should be put into perspective.
The Chinese government is consistently striving to control the international flow of information to China: After the times of Mao, the Communist Party wants to regain absolute authority over all domestic political conditions and foreign policy events vis-à-vis the Chinese people. While newspapers with objective coverage of China and international events have so far been able to get at least to the elites in the big cities via Hong Kong, this is no longer possible since the end of Hong Kong’s autonomy (without international resistance!). In the meantime, China has blocked around 311,000 domains and manipulated international websites with specially developed software programs, so that anti-communist and China-critical content is no longer visible. For this purpose, it also switches off the possibility of bypassing this blocking with internationally used programs (e.g. VPN) with software specially developed for this purpose.
The Chinese government uses modern IT and AI to largely monitor the population: The internationally known QR codes play a central role in this. In China, they are not only used to prove anti-Covid vaccinations, but have also become a popular instrument for paying for purchases or for eating outside and other things. At the same time, however, they provide the government with extensive information on the social behavior of the Chinese. They serve a „social credit system“ with bonus points, so basically the basis for „reward or punishment“. If these codes are expanded and used extensively, they are a monitoring system, regardless of whether it is centralized or regional.
Travel by Chinese to other countries and the entry of Western citizens to China are increasingly restricted: Officially, such restrictions are justified with the corona pandemic, but the concrete approach indicates a political background. China wants to isolate itself or its population in large parts, albeit not in all, but starting with large parts. The number of foreigners in the metropolises has already decreased significantly in the past few years. Only half as many students are studying at international schools as they used to be. The issuance of passports fell to 2 percent in the first half of 2021 compared to 2019. This is not a consistent policy in all segments, but it is its general orientation.
China is returning to isolation from Western culture: In the Chinese media, the dissemination of “historically nihilistic” content is banned, and a campaign is being carried out against “wrong turns” in culture. This includes all views that are not acceptable to the Communist Party. The KP has set up a reporting office for this. Private English lessons are restricted or completely forbidden on the grounds that cultural ties to the “imperialist West” are to be cut off. For all problems occurring outside of China, the “West” is portrayed as the culprit in the Chinese media. In the case of its own economic difficulties, it is argued that the West wants to prevent China’s further rise. Marxist theses are again propagated in detail. The personality cult around Xi is now standard. Western journalists see this as the beginning of a new cultural revolution. A pro-Chinese scientist working in Europe rejects the Western social system and demands that solutions for political and economic reforms can only be found within the “current political, economic, social or legal system of China”, in pure speech: within the communist dictatorship .
Under Xi, the communist party gained popular support: a large majority of the Chinese support Xi and thus the Communist Party, both in suppressing the large private corporations and the enormous private wealth of their owners, as well as in rejecting western values by turning their attention to it to allegedly Sino-national values. This also includes Xi’s aggressive international claims to power, because these are only seen as a compensation for the foreign subjugation of China that began with the first opium war almost 200 years ago. Only a very small group among the intellectual elites, and even these only in the larger cities, agree with Western ideas of separation of powers and freedom of expression. In contrast, almost all Chinese reject these ideas and find themselves in good hands within a communist dictatorship. The majority of the Chinese perceive Western democracies as chaotic and incomprehensible. In their understanding of life, individual interests have to be subordinate to collectivist interests. The dilemma of Western models of explanation about China is not being able to explain why the majority of the Chinese population does not have the political understanding that it should have according to the Western understanding.
The Chinese policy described in the first part is largely inconsistent. The economic and foreign policy of every Western country cannot be consistent either, but with one major difference. In Western democracies, different interest groups require different, sometimes even directly contradicting, policies. In the dictatorship of Xi, the inconsistencies result from his claim to hegemonic power. No Western economic policy can be consistent in itself because its goals (economic growth, price stability, high employment, external balance) are mutually exclusive in a competitive economy. Since the basis of the four decades of Chinese growth was also capitalist competition, there are similar economic and political contradictions, which – in contrast to the developed western economies – had only minor effects over a longer period due to the peculiarities of the Chinese domestic market. As above all through high inexpensive labor reserves (separation from agriculture by increasing its productivity), high Western investments, high proportion of foreign trade, high export surpluses, high Chinese foreign investments, as well as currency distortions, distortions of competition (for example due to low environmental regulations) and others more. However, there were also negative internal developments, such as the emergence of monopolies, with all the disadvantages known from Western countries.
These conditions, the positive as well as the negative, are currently changing dramatically. The economic boom also brought about a differentiation in the population. For many years this consisted in simplified terms of: city versus country; higher party, military and business cadres versus mass of the population; as well as separately the interests of the small direct leadership circle of the Communist Party. Now there are: wealthy private entrepreneurs versus small entrepreneurs; broad, well-educated middle class versus simple employees; wealthy peasants versus simple farm workers; intellectuals trained in western countries versus Chinese intellectuals with no experience abroad. The leadership of the Communist Party has well understood the dangers this poses for its absolute political power. However, it is unable to grasp the related political and economic inconsistencies (quite comparable to the reaction of Western elites to their own inconsistencies).
How can the Chinese government be able to enforce its border ideas against Vietnam, India, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and others? China could not subjugate Japan and India individually, but it could not prevent an alliance of these two states together with other potential opponents, nor their support from Europe, Asia and South America. How long can China maintain its pinprick policy against Taiwan? If serious economic problems were to break out, China, like other dictatorships before, could resort to military solutions, which in turn would have unforeseeable consequences. If China were to militarily attack Taiwan, the US would have to intervene, or lose all allies in Asia and have nothing to counter the Chinese claim to power. The defense of Taiwan’s freedom is one of the few sine qua non of American politics, not only externally, but also internally for the American self-image. An attack on Taiwan would trigger a global political and economic crisis. Whether the Chinese leadership is aware of this can be doubted after the experiences with former communist dictators.
How does the Chinese government intend to deal with its economic inconsistencies? China still has high unemployment, especially in the countryside. Simple jobs, as in the years of high economic growth, can no longer be created on a large scale in the future. The qualification of the unemployed in a high-tech economy requires increasingly higher investments and sometimes comes up against natural limits. At the same time, the birth rate is negative, the population of China is stagnating, but the proportion of the population leaving the economy is growing rapidly. This increases the cost of retirement benefits. Economic growth will tend to decline, but this could be limited in the future by the increase in domestic consumption, but this requires enormous start-up financing, but credit financing cannot be expanded indefinitely without inflation. How will the increasing central state planning (14th five-year plan 2021-2025) be able to maintain private willingness to innovate?
Xi’s economic policy is condensed into the new five-year plan. It relies largely on government funding for four sectors: semiconductors, electric cars, aviation and telecommunications. State start-up funding and subsidies are important instruments in any economy, but they do not guarantee success. If this is offset by far-reaching regulations and restrictions on entrepreneurial freedom, innovations and growth become questionable. An increase in productivity would improve China’s international competitiveness and enable higher government revenues, but none of this would be possible without private innovations, after all, 60 percent of economic growth and 90 percent of new jobs can be traced back to the private sector.
Conclusion and conclusions
- It is generally wrong to speak of “the” or “a” Chinese leadership. There is only one Chinese who decides, and his name is Xi Jinping. Xi occupies the same dictatorial position that Stalin, Brezhnev and Mao once held. He is a communist dictator whose entire thinking and acting is determined by just one thought: “How can I stay in power, what can endanger my power?” This makes him a politician driven by fear, which makes him so incomprehensible to the West power.
- This claim to national power forces him to pursue inconsistent policies. On the one hand, he has to shield China from the outside world so as not to endanger his self-contained communist-nationalist ideology through spiritual outside influences. On the other hand, the claim to superiority of Chinese culture and the Chinese economic system over western culture and the western economic system can only be upheld through claims to foreign policy. This is the radical difference to the isolation of China in the earlier empire, which was sufficient in itself, whereas Xi can only maintain his empire in close economic integration with the outside world. Xi is doomed to expand internationally, economically and hegemonic.
- The US clearly recognizes the dangers arising from the political changes in China. They want to prevent military conflicts, which does not mean that they do not rule them out.
Diplomacy ends in power interests
An analysis of the German situation would not only have to capture the relationship with China, but also with the EU states and the USA. China is Germany’s largest trading partner and the EU at the same time. This has always been the predominant argument behind the conservative China policy of the CDU and SPD. For this it received and continues to receive applause from large parts of the German economy. However, it does not take into account the fact that China also comes first for US foreign trade. Nevertheless, the US has changed its foreign policy and its foreign trade policy towards China in essential areas. For China, the USA is the first trading partner (apart from Hong Kong), Germany comes in fifth place after Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. China trade is undoubtedly advantageous for Germany, German jobs depend on it and German exports from Chinese suppliers; but also for China, because China exports more goods to Germany than the other way around, while these are far more extensive than the USA.
However, it is not recognized that Germany conducts more than half of its foreign trade with the 26 other EU states, with almost ten times the volume of China. For some German corporations, the danger resulting from a deteriorating relationship with China may be considerable, but it is the task of the corporate executives to recognize and take into account the volatilities resulting from all transactions, and in the case of China this includes the absolutist state influence. In China there is no legal right to the security of German investments. Diplomacy ends in power interests.
Between threat and hug
Itis a banal statement: The 27 EU states have common and divergent interests towards China, and these also change with the change of individual governments, including German ones. Lately, Germany, with its sheer economic power, has increasingly asserted its own interests against EU states. Especially in the area of migration policy, it has turned all of Eastern Europe against itself. It is therefore understandable that a number of countries want to return the favor with the Chinese card. China pulls some states on its side (Greece, Italy), while it punishes others, smaller ones (Lithuania), who oppose it. Neither Germany nor the EU Commission reacts to either.
At least since Obama’s policy on Syria, Germany has known that American “red lines” cannot be relied on. Trump has reinforced this insight many times over, and Biden has maintained that with Kabul and the submarine deal with Australia. The USA has become more unreliable and therefore more unpredictable for Germany, but partly through its own fault. Often times, the former federal government preferred to negotiate between its allies than to coordinate internally with the US. The realization that Germany’s security depends completely on the US for military purposes is in large parts of the elite only a formality and is therefore viewed as irrelevant by parts of German politics (the SPD parliamentary group leader is an avowed pacifist). That rubbed off on the attitudes of the population. If a nuclear war is ruled out per se, Germany can move happily between the worlds and thus become itself unreliable and incalculable.
Chinese domestic policy will not become less repressive, its economic policy will not become more market-based, nor will Western companies be more willing to invest. Chinese foreign policy will generally not become less aggressive, but China will endeavor to drive wedges between the US and its allies, wedges between the individual EU states, wedges between the USA and South America and Africa, and wedges between the Asian states. For seventy years, the US has shown them exactly this, China has shown itself to be capable of learning and cleverly alternates between threats and hugs. The German relationship with China shows an almost unmistakable wealth of influencing factors. Is there a navigation system for this? Is there a navigator for this?
Fridays For Future instead of freedom
Merkel’s long-time military policy advisor, Erich Vad, believes that due to China’s nuclear second strike capability (via nuclear submarines), a direct war between the USA and China can be ruled out. This is not a “rational option of system competition”. As before, the existence of nuclear weapons would guarantee peace between the great powers. That was always the mantra during the Cold War, and since history had confirmed that mantra, it would continue to apply in the future. This consideration is extremely wrong for two reasons and could be fatal for Germany. At first, this stalemate was about to collapse twice. In the so-called missile crisis of 1962, the Russian military leadership wanted to dare a nuclear war. Only the coincidence “Khrushchev” prevented this. In 1983 the central Soviet computers signaled the start of a US missile attack. Only the prudence of the responsible Russian officer, a simple officer, prevented the nuclear catastrophe.
Second, Vad rules out coincidences, he moves in a linear way of thinking, his historical linearity does not apply and will not happen in the future either. But: Significant parts of German politics agree with him. The Merkel years have been comfortable for her, and future dangers will no longer affect her personally at her age, at least that’s what they mean. In addition: Large parts of the German youth demonstrate for the worldwide rescue of the climate, but not for worldwide freedom. The Chinese government is taking note of this with interest, as it has a new ally.
The recent disputes about the “Confucius Institutes” at German universities have made two things clear: Even after the collapse of the GDR, parts of the German elite had still not recognized the systematic interrelationships of a communist state, or they did not want them within their left-wing worldview. After 70 years of almost uninterrupted economic growth, the German elites have become comfortable, complacent and incapable of defending themselves.
Coincidences in Politics Generally speaking, a forward-looking policy has to deal with two types of coincidence: predictable and unpredictable. The 2008 financial crisis, the 2015 migration crisis, Brexit, the current energy crisis – all of them became apparent beforehand, all of which were discussed as possibilities in the media. Their timing and some of their circumstances were coincidental, but to a minor extent, because none was inevitable and therefore not inevitable, they were foreseeable coincidences. A possible attack by China on Taiwan, as well as an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran are also foreseeable, but with a far lower probability than the former, therefore they remain in the political focus as possibilities.
From today’s knowledge, global inflation may be unlikely, but if politics were to rule it out completely, it would be subject to linear thinking. The top German diplomat Heusgen believes that the economies of China and the USA are far too networked to treat China as a “systematic rival”. This view is a typical example of linear thinking in diplomacy. It categorically rules out abrupt turns by chance. Christoph Heusgen, Merkel’s longstanding foreign policy advisor, says: “Under Xi Jinping, China has become a totalitarian state in which everything is geared towards the President and the Communist Party. Nothing will change in the foreseeable future. We have to stay in conversation and business with China, but we have to represent our principles clearly and prevent the world from running according to Chinese rules in the future. “ There is no better way for a German diplomat to formulate the widespread German misunderstanding of China. Wasn’t China a totalitarian state before Xi? Was there anything other than the one Communist Party before Xi? Yes, there were two feuding groups within this party, but only about the sole power that Xi then gained.
Which German or American politician is calling for the conversation with China to be abandoned? Who is calling for all economic relations with China to be severed? A senior German diplomat builds cardboard comrades and argues against phantoms. Where are the “red lines” for Germany? What principles has Germany clearly represented towards China so far, how has it represented them and how has China reacted to them? Did Germany prevent the port of Piraeus from being sold? Has Germany pledged military support to Taiwan? Has Germany sent more than just symbolic signals to China? Has Germany pledged its support to Australia and Lithuania? Did Germany specifically support the United States‘ readiness for defense? If such principles exist at all, then they are only written on paper and formulated in such vague terms that China does not need a discussion.
And finally the all-important question: How does Germany intend to prevent the world from running according to Chinese rules, and specifically according to which rules? Isn’t China already influencing numerous states? Hasn’t China already enforced its rules in a number of international organizations? Where are the “red lines” for Germany? Does Germany have a „Plan B“ if China continues to push ahead with its aggressiveness? The German elites have not yet realized that the coordinates of the current world order are seriously shifting. Looking back over the past 20 years is a warming lamp for their souls. The memory is a soul warmer for them. They live in the past and they live without a people.
Here’s a simple consideration:
What would happen if a Chinese bomber was heading straight for Taiwan due to a technical defect or human error, then crashed or was shot down? Would the other Chinese warplanes take this as a signal of an attack on them and attack them in turn?
„Respectful dialogue at eye level“
Inhistory, coincidences have prevented and brought about catastrophes, mostly through people’s ability to decide or not to decide. German diplomacy rules out the chance factor of humans, although its foreign minister was the direct example of such a chance factor. Saigon 1975 and Kabul 2021 were predictable. For Tehran 1979 and 9/11 there were signs that, taken seriously, would have prevented the catastrophe, but the specific circumstances for this could not be foreseen unless the USA had spies among the „Revolutionary Guardians“ and in „Al Qaeda“ had. An opposite view is widespread among German scientists. For example, a former professor at the Free University of Berlin calls for Germany to enter into a “respectful dialogue on an equal footing” with China. However, he does not say for which political demands the Chinese government demands respect and with which political, economic and military power this eye level should be connected. China is currently – and will be for a long time – the central threat to the free world. This threat is also known in Germany, but have we also recognized it? To conclude, a quote from Marc Aurel from „Self-Contemplation, Tenth Book“, No. 37: “In everything that happens to others, try to find out what their purpose is. But start with yourself, always research yourself first! „“
Comment Global Review: An excellent analysis of the PRC and its geopolitical position as well as an appeal to realise that China is a danger. The widespread linear thinking is justifiably criticized, a plan B is called for, a long list of questions about possible courses of action and reactions is drawn up, but the article does not give a coherent answer about the consequences and what should be done specifically for a German China policy. The author falls back behind his initial annnouncements.
The German China expert Professor Van Ess named two fundamental mistakes in the article:
“A long article. The author is partly right. But there are also a few weak points. That he doubts that the Chinese leadership knows what an attack on Taiwan would mean politically and economically globally is clearly wrong. That is one of the typical conclusions that are drawn in Germany based on the experience with the USSR and GDR socialism. But despite the same political system, they were something completely different from the PR China today. The Chinese leadership (and he’s wrong here too: it’s not just about Xi Jinping) is fully aware of the scope of such an attack. The dangerous thing is that Corona serves both sides to see how well you can get along without each other. By the way, the USA started this policy – perhaps partly justified, but with far too much aggressive fanfare. In conversations with party people at universities in China, I saw exactly what kind of shock that caused. Then came Hong Kong. If China comes to the conclusion today that it will come out victorious in the quake that an attack on Taiwan would unleash, it will do it. No German armored cruiser can help against this. The Chinese would have to be prevented from doing this through diplomacy. And this is clearly on the defensive at the moment, because the West maintains a Manichaean worldview and continues to demonize the other side, partly out of frustration, because the discussions have not yet convinced the Chinese of „our values“. Yesterday I was once again in a China group at the lower ministry level, where this catchphrase, which urgently needs to be filled with content beyond academic freedom, was quoted. Without a reason to go to war, I don’t think China will launch this attack.
Also wrong: The German economic exchange with China is something completely different from that of the USA with China. The US is largely dependent on China for imports, which Trump tried to reduce (understandably, but by the wrong means). Biden continues to try this, but so far, as in all political areas, with little success. Conversely, the USA only delivers comparatively little to China, so they are much less important as a sales market for the USA than for Germany. And that is the crucial point that you have to understand. „