Shortly before his Summit of Democracies, US President Joe Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics. Beijing is angry – again. Is China’s anger increasingly not scaring other countries? So now it has happened. US President Joe Biden has announced a diplomatic boycott * of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Athletes are allowed to travel to the games in February 2022, but government officials are not. New Zealand and Australia also joined this boycott. In the EU there is still a discussion. Other states are still considering, including Germany under its new government. One might criticize that this is purely symbolic politics. But Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki put it in very simple words. In view of the Chinese human rights violations, especially in Xinjiang, one must avoid the impression that “everything is perfectly normal”. China’s Foreign Office spokesman Zhao Lijian threatened the United States with retaliation on Monday in the event of an Olympic boycott. „It is a mockery of the Olympic spirit, a political provocation and an attack on 1.4 billion Chinese,“ Zhao told the press in Beijing. The ministry reaffirmed its willingness to take countermeasures on Tuesday, without saying anything concrete. The nationalist state newspaper Global Times had already emphasized in advance that China * had not invited anyone anyway. No one cares whether US politicians come or not, the spokeswoman for the Beijing embassy in Washington tweeted. But what’s the point if the boycott is unimportant? It does cast a shadow over the prestigious games – which becomes bigger the more states take part.
The boycotts indicate that many politicians in the democratic countries of China are no longer as afraid of anger and possible reprisals as they were months ago. This is especially true in connection with Taiwan. In the autumn, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu traveled through Europe for days. Little Lithuania approved the opening of a Taiwan office in the capital Vilnius, knowing well that it would anger China. MEPs from the Baltic states and the EU Parliament made official visits to Taipei. The EU Parliament has long been campaigning for relations with Taiwan to be upgraded. The US wants to involve the island in the work of the United Nations. None of this would have been conceivable until recently. Taiwan * affects the “core interests” of China, which sees the island as a breakaway province. The “one China principle” * is sacred to Beijing. Like the US, Europe continues to stress that it recognizes this principle. But the knee-jerk rejection of any chance for Taiwan to participate in international events is crumbling. Perhaps also because Beijing is increasingly reacting to small things with harsh rhetoric and threatening retaliation. Some diplomats like to rush forward as so-called „wolf warriors“ * with verbal attacks on the West and its system. That wears out at some point. Especially since China doesn’t need a really big bang either. The international economic and political interdependence is not only beneficial to the West. It also benefits Beijing. Keywords: world trade, climate protection, global health policy, nuclear disarmament. Such a realization expands your own leeway, like now in dealing with Taiwan.
Even Joe Biden seems to care little whether he angered China or not. Like his predecessor Donald Trump, Biden sees the People’s Republic primarily as a system rival. Inevitably, people work together on climate protection or combating horrific oil prices. Biden recently spoke for several hours online with President Xi Jinping. * But only a little later, he invited Taiwan to his virtual “Summit of Democracies” with 110 countries, which began on Thursday. An affront to Beijing, which, like Russia, is not invited. The invitation is also exceptional because Washington does not even recognize Taiwan as an independent state. But in the face of military threatening gestures from Beijing *, the USA demonstratively backed the government in Taipei this year. The island has been democratically ruled since the 1990s. The discharged shrug their shoulders or defend themselves verbally. The Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, for example, accused the US government of wanting to „split“ the world community. The ambassadors of Russia and China to the US, Anatoly Antonov and Qin Gang, criticized a “Cold War mentality” behind the summit in an article for the US newspaper The National Interest. They rejected the idea that the Biden government would decide who counts as a democracy. In fact, the US President’s list of invitations to the Democracy Summit has weaknesses. As the human rights organization Freedom House analyzed, some of the guests are only „partially free“, for example Congo, Angola, Iraq and Pakistan. All four are lower on the ranking list than Turkey or Hungary, which Biden apparently wanted to punish for their democratic setbacks. India also slipped recently, but was invited, as the country is always seen as the antithesis of China. So the guest list is not objective. It also serves political goals. Either way, according to Freedom House, China is one of the most unfree countries in the world.
China’s State Council drafted a white paper called „Democracy That Works“ just a few days ago. In a nutshell: China’s democracy is different, but better. The state media quoted various experts who interpreted the concept. At its core, it is about its own democratic narrative apart from elections. Accordingly, the party listens to the people and uses the power received from the people for their good. For Beijing, poverty reduction and development are key human rights *. And that’s where China was successful. Things like freedom of expression play a subordinate role for the Communist Party. It is unclear whether the country wants to challenge the world with this version of democracy. But the Global Times got started straight away and is now railing against the sins of US democracy in a whole series: The US has killed 801,000 people, including 335,000 civilians, and forced 37 million to flee in military operations in 85 countries since 2001, writes the mouthpiece of the CCP – all „in the name of democracy“.
Even if the West occasionally defies China: Basically, the fear of interference by autocratic states, for example in elections in the West, is increasing. Democracies should work together to defend their democratic norms, stressed Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz. National legal loopholes exploited by authoritarian states have to be closed because authoritarian states abuse the openness of democratic systems, according to Abramowitz. Its aim is to undermine democracy itself. But just as important as warding off authoritarian threats is the much more difficult question: What do we want to achieve? And how? Because the authoritarian states are there. „The current US consensus is very certain about what Washington rejects,“ said foreign policy expert Robert Manning of the Atlantic Council in relation to China: „But not about what it wants or what it needs . “Biden’s China policy is characterized by a“ constant tug-of-war between values and interests ”. In the end, pragmatism often prevailed. In Europe, too, the discussion about the future China course is in full swing. The EU Parliament has been calling for a tougher line for months and put the controversial EU-China investment agreement CAI on hold. The background to this is mutual sanctions in connection with the suppression of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region. On Monday, Brussels extended these EU sanctions against China by one year. In the EU, too, it is easier to formulate rejection or resistance than goals and strategies for the future. It is uncertain whether the EU will join an Olympic boycott.
The problem is always money and the risk of destroying good economic relations. China understands this all too well. When Australia asked Beijing to transparently clarify the origins of the coronavirus, Beijing introduced punitive tariffs on Australian wine and refused to allow ships carrying hard coal from Australia to unload their cargo in Chinese ports. Canberra recently ordered American nuclear submarines as part of a new security alliance with the US and UK. Australia also joined Biden’s Olympic boycott on Wednesday night. Prime Minister Scott Morrison does not seem to be afraid of the consequences. The same applies to Lithuania, a country with just 2.8 million inhabitants. In connection with the opening of the Taiwan office in Vilnius, China stopped granting the country import permits for food and stopped rail transport. It also downgraded diplomatic relations to the so-called chargé d’affaires level. Recently, according to a report by the South China Morning Post, Lithuania even temporarily disappeared from China’s customs system and was unable to process any trade deliveries for four days. A technical defect, it was said. The EU delegation in Beijing is now investigating the incident. The US expert Manning sees signs that China may have already reached the zenith of its power in the face of many domestic problems – including the electricity and real estate crises *. “The US – and the rest of the world – may have more control over Beijing’s behavior than they realize, he says. And that “despite the heated rhetoric of the Chinese media and diplomats.
However, prpresantives of the peak power theory see now the Evergand crisis as another indicator that China will soon reach its power peak. The Chinese real estate giant Evergrande is on the brink-The crisis in the Chinese real estate sector continues to worsen. The two real estate developers Evergrande and Kaisa are threatened with collapse. It was only on Thursday that the rating agency Fitch warned its customers of a possible default for both companies and set their rating to „Restricted Default“. This is the last stage before default. The second largest Chinese real estate group Evergrande grew up with the construction and sale of apartments in the medium and higher price segment. Unlike in Germany, for example, real estate in China is usually sold against prepayment – and only then built. In recent years, the real estate giant has also penetrated numerous other sectors such as the business with mineral water, baby food and e-cars. Now the conglomerate is up to its neck. Evergrande was unable to service interest payments of $ 1.2 billion due on Monday. Overall, the group is the equivalent of around 300 billion dollars. Foreign creditors alone account for $ 19 billion of this. Kaisa has around twelve billion dollars in debt abroad alone. But creditors will have to write them off. The fear of Evergrande bankruptcy is a domino effect It was not until Wednesday that reports caused nervousness that the company was unable to meet a deadline of around $ 400 million to settle debt. In light of this, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange suspended trading in Kaisa shares. In addition to Evergrande and Kaisa, other developers could now come under pressure. Many observers are wondering how valuable the company’s real estate projects actually are and fear a domino effect that could spill over to other areas of the economy. At the same time, there is growing concern that a possible collapse in the Chinese real estate market could send stock exchanges downhill across the world. However, there are also experts who think the effects will be limited and won´t be a Lehmann effect and that doomsday sayers already in the last decades always prophezised a collapse of China´s financial system which didn´t happen afterwards.