FM fosters German consensus
EU remains pragmatic to China ‘despite noises’
Published: Sep 01, 2020 11:18 PM

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) bumps ellbows with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as the two met in Berlin, Germany on Tuesday as part of Wang's Europe visit. Photo: AFP

The last stop and tone-setting visit of Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's five-nation Europe tour brought him to Germany on Tuesday, the biggest economy in the European Union (EU) that holds the presidency of the Council of the EU. Chinese analysts believe that deeper China-Germany relations will not only better guide China-Europe relations affected by the US' mounting pressure, but also enhance global governance and multilateralism amid international challenges, as China-Germany ties have gone beyond the bilateral level. 

Wang's visit to Germany was also very timely, after some major European countries, including Germany and France, tried to interfere in China's Hong Kong affairs, Chinese analysts said, noting that Wang's visit will further improve political mutual trust to ease the misunderstanding and impact of Hong Kong issues on China-Europe relations. 

Wang is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Before Wang's arrival in Germany, Merkel said on Friday that she wanted to continue the conversation with China and set an example for multilateralism.

China and Germany have many ways to work closer together, and she hopes the two sides will make further progress on the EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement. Merkel said the EU and China should also meet on their differences.

Germany holds the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. Merkel earlier said that China would be a major focus of the EU's foreign policy during this period.

Wang's week-long Europe trip, his first overseas trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began, has also brought him to Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and France. 

Analysts said China and Germany are likely to further lift restrictions on the resumption of business and people-to-people exchanges affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, jointly conduct research on COVID-19 vaccines, and speed up negotiations on the China-EU bilateral investment agreement, while calling on upholding multilateralism in global issues. 

The Chinese market has increasingly become an important driving force for the German economy to get out of the shadows of the pandemic, and there are broad prospects for future cooperation between the two sides in biomedicine, new energy, ecological protection, digital economy, artificial intelligence and other fields, Chinese Mmbassador to Germany Wu Ken said ahead of Wang's visit. 

Germany is the "bellwether" of the EU, which has been leading EU members in taking an independent diplomatic route, despite pressure from the US to form an alliance against Beijing, analysts said. 

Germany will not abandon its strategic independence policy and sacrifice its cooperation with China, Feng Zhongping, director of the Institute of European Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Germany's pipeline project with Russia is another example that it did not succumb to US pressure, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has targeted both China and Russia during his Europe visit shortly before Wang's trip, he said. 

Germany has been China's biggest trading partner in Europe for more than 40 years. China-Germany trade accounts for about 30 percent of China-EU trade.

Certain European countries have shown increasing tendency to fall into the US' camp against China, but that's not the case for the entire Europe, Feng said. 

Completely chiming in with the US will make Europe lose its strategic independence and lose the huge market of EU's second-biggest trading partner, which is an important partner in upholding multilateralism in international affairs, analysts said. 

"Europe is seeking a balance between China and the US, and will take into consideration their own interests and pragmatic cooperation with China, and not undermine their relations with China for the sake of being US allies," Feng said. 

Contrary to the German government's relatively friendly attitude towards China, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, after meeting with Wang Yi on Tuesday, called on China to withdraw the national security law for Hong Kong and hold the Legislative Council election of Hong Kong as soon as possible, German media reported. He made the remarks during a news conference with Wang in Berlin.

Maas' tough rhetoric on matters concerning the core interests of China contrasts with the Merkel government's position. However, such divergence also shows that different voices have emerged in the EU concerning China amid the coronavirus epidemic, Wang Yiwei, a professor at the School of International Relations of Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Since the outbreak, some Europeans realized how much they depend on China, triggering anxiety and anti-China sentiment, which have been amplified by US politicians, Wang noted. "While Germany has taken on the EU's rotating presidency, it has to take different voices into consideration, particularly in the face of US pressure," the expert said. 

Such a subtle attitude has also been applied in China-relevant matters like Hong Kong, which is widely seen as a test of China fulfilling its commitment to the international community, Wang added.

Analysts said that the difference on the Hong Kong issue between China and Germany may not be solved in the short term, but the two countries would pursue their common grounds while putting aside differences, unlike the US which has been adopting conspiracies and threats to countries that have differences with it. 

Even if German officials raised the Hong Kong issue with Wang, that did not mean Germany has succumbed to US pressure. European countries have different systems and histories with China, and have had different views with China on some issues, Feng said. 

Sensitive topics on Hong Kong and Xinjiang were also raised during Wang's visit to France, and Wang listed facts on China's Hong Kong and Xinjiang related issues, and said rumors and lies about China come from a small pocket of people bent on smearing China. He said that lies and rumors, no matter how many times they are repeated, are bound to be debunked eventually by facts. 

He Zhigao, a research fellow at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the timely visit of Wang will bridge the gap between China and Europe, and consolidate their common interests. 

During Wang's five-nation visit that started in Italy, there was also some noise. Hong Kong secessionist Nathan Law Kwun-chung urged the Italian foreign minister and German foreign minister to take a hard-line stance on Hong Kong affairs, which analysts said will not shake these countries' policies or practical cooperation with China, as the leaders of these countries will decide based on their countries' interests. 

Even some foreign media have realized it. The BBC reported on Monday that although European countries raised sensitive topics with Wang, they still positively evaluated the meetings. 

Emmanuel Bonne, diplomatic counselor to French President Emmanuel Macron, said after meeting with Wang that France will continue to push frequent high-level exchanges between Europe and China, and will work with relevant parties to plan post-pandemic exchanges and cooperation to lift EU-China strategic cooperation to a new level.
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