$28 million research institute of China studies is Germany’s independent signal to US
Published: Jul 05, 2021 07:09 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The education ministry of Germany announced that it was investing €24 million ($28.4 million) in a program running between 2017 and 2024 to strengthen "independent China competence" in its universities and research institutes, according to South China Morning Post on July 3. The aim of the project is to support science and research cooperation with China that is "based on European values," according to a statement from the ministry.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been promoting the independence and balance of Germany between China and the US. This has happened even though Washington is pushing for a common US-EU policy. From this perspective, although Germany ostensibly said it wants to establish a research program to prevent China's infiltration or influence, the fact is this actually Germany's attempt to get rid of US interference. 

The US often tries to influence European policy and public opinion on China by funding European think tanks and research institutions. The Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), for example, is the largest research institution dedicated to China in Germany and Europe. However, the MERICS is not only funded by German foundations, but also has close relationship with forces in the US. Not surprisingly, the institute openly defames China's human rights. It politicizes and demonizes China studies and it was then sanctioned by China in March. Such think tanks are powerless and unreliable.

This time, the new program emphasizes "European values" and it does not necessarily mean to be anti-China. It may also be Germany's signal to the US that Europe will establish a research center that is independent of Washington's control.

Few Western media outlets or scholars dare to evaluate China objectively, especially in recent years, due to the anti-China mentality hyped up by the US. Now that Germany is setting up an independent institute "based on European values," it is hoped that it can offer an opportunity to interpret China from a European standpoint - and in a most European way. 

The West hopes that China can follow it in terms of values. And when they are aware that China will not repeat their path, they lose the steering wheel of China's development. Western values are showing signs of weakness. The West is behaving like a boy who is wooing a girl he likes. When he fails to gain her heart, he will try to destroy her.

As Merkel is about to step down, the opinion toward China in Germany has shown some fluctuations. But Germany will not change its independent policies. The right-ward trend toward China will not necessarily continue. It is even more unlikely that Germany will take a U-turn toward China. Even as opinions toward China become more and more hawkish, the German government will not change its China diplomacy under the principle of independence. 

The unfavorable opinion toward China is largely attributed to China's accomplishment in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Germany and Europe are not willing to admit the advantage of the Chinese system and communism. They worry that China's ever more visible development advantages will pose a threat to the Western system - and break their myth. The fundamental differences in ideology and systems make Western society hard to accept an objective and lovable China.

Upon the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, more than 150 countries around the world have showed support and sent congratulations, By contrast, how many true friends does the West have? In the past, the West obstructed China's development via intimidation. Nowadays when it cannot resist China's development momentum, it can only smear China. China should speak out, but it is the West that should reflect.

The author is Jean Monnet chair professor and director of the Center for EU Studies at Renmin University of China. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn