Why does Marco Rubio hate China

From partner to opponent : The rude awakening from the China gold rush mood

Angela Merkel's twelfth and so far last trip to China took the Chancellor to Wuhan in 2019, where the novel corona virus was to break out a few weeks later. Their message was that in times of enormous change, more than ever, one must think and act multilaterally instead of unilaterally, together instead of alone. The German EU Council Presidency from July 2020 should build new bridges in relation to China, especially through the first full summit of all 27 EU states with the Chinese government, which was planned for mid-September in Leipzig.

This was canceled due to the corona pandemic - and it's almost symptomatic. From partner to competitor, to systemic rival. The gold rush mood with a view to China has given way to concerns about an expansion of influence in Europe as a result of the economic upheavals caused by the pandemic.

At the end of her chancellorship, Merkel is faced with the great task of swearing the Europeans to a new line towards Beijing. In the United States, the debate about decoupling, a decoupling of China, favored Donald Trump's rise to the presidency.

Hangover mood in Brussels too

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel held a video session on Monday with China's Prime Minister Li Keqian and later with President Xi Jinping - but there is no sign of departure, negotiations on an investment protection agreement are also stuck, and new ones are being built Coal-fired power plants in China are also hampering joint efforts to protect the climate.

As in the USA, the picture in public opinion is changing in Europe, as shown by the massive resistance to the participation of the Chinese Huawei group in the development of 5G networks.

Merkel has so far resisted pressure from the Union and the SPD to completely exclude the group. According to "Handelsblatt", Deutsche Telekom expects costs of three billion euros and a delay of up to several years if the federal government does so. Huawei is a leader in this area. “Exclusion of Huawei from 5G would also mean that 4G would be dismantled. Germany would be thrown back massively in the 5G expansion ", emphasizes the Telekom.

China's head of state and party leader Xi Jinping is also being viewed more and more suspiciously in Europe - although the rise to world power has not yet been accompanied by armed international conflicts, it is acting increasingly self-confidently. The massive criticism of the internment of the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang or the end of Hong Kong's autonomy go unheard.

It disciplines states like Australia that are demanding an independent investigation into the corona outbreak in Wuhan with punitive tariffs or tries to attract countries like Greece to its side in order to prevent human rights violations from being denounced. In addition, as part of the Silk Road Initiative, economic influence is being expanded to such an extent that inevitably the political one is also growing rapidly.

[If you want the most important news from Berlin, Germany and the world live on your mobile phone, we recommend our completely redesigned app, which you can download here for Apple and Android devices.]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on the Western defense alliance to arm itself more strongly against threats from China. The rise of China "fundamentally changes the global balance of power". China is increasingly coming to Europe's doorstep. It is present in the Arctic, the Mediterranean and in Africa and is investing in critical infrastructure in Europe.

Alliance of MPs warns of China's influence

The Greens foreign politician Omid Nouripour is part of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an association of over 100 MPs from 13 countries, including US Senator Marco Rubio. He sees a rude awakening among many, for example the chat and payment service WeChat, which is also used in Germany, is one of the largest data tapping devices in the world. And with a view to the German EU Council Presidency, he asks why the planned reconstruction fund of around 500 billion euros from the EU states is not also being used to buy back Chinese shares in ports, for example to nationalize the port of Piraeus.

"There is hardly a major port in Europe without Chinese participation." But the wind is turning, the Greek government would block criticism of the way it dealt with the Uyghurs, unlike a few years ago, and the China-friendly course in the Czech Republic is also changing, only Hungary is still on the KP-friendly brakes.

So there is a chance to establish a common line. “For many, the bilateral path has proven to be the wrong one, because in the end the bigger partner is always the winner.” Europe could also use the crisis worldwide to expand its strategic influence, for example through unilateral debt relief for the poorest countries, which China did would block so far.

"We need a more robust strategy for China, which also requires better relations with the rest of democratic Asia," said EU Foreign Minister Josep Borell to the EU foreign ministers at the end of May. Such a clear formulation is new. What is also new is that for some time now, China's government has been reacting more sharply than before to critical comments from the West.

Up until now, Beijing was mainly used to being attacked from the USA, but Beijing has so far been relaxed about criticism from Europe. You knew how dependent the EU markets are on China's consumers. It seems that Beijing's leadership is already considering how to force Europe to commit more to China - and thus repel the US. Nobody in the Communist Party could have imagined that the pressure from China tended to lead Europe's leaders to move closer together when it came to China.

Because until now it has been China's strategy to make bilateral agreements with individual European countries and to play the EU states of Europe off against each other. Most recently, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi praised the progress made in expanding a railway line between Serbia and Hungary at a video conference on the Silk Road projects. In the so-called 17 + 1 group with the Central and Eastern European countries, China had already forged plans to expand a rail link between Belgrade and Belgrade in 2015.

But what the readjustment can look like is the big challenge. Michael Clauss, the ambassador of Germany in Brussels and from 2013 to 2018 the German ambassador in Beijing, says in an interview with the South China Morning Post (SCMP) with regard to the German Council Presidency that "a bad deal is not an option." It is also decisive to achieve fair market access for European companies in China.

There are also significant complaints about Chinese disinformation campaigns in the corona pandemic, which are tarnishing relations. The previous strategy of getting closer to the goal of a mutual agreement with pragmatism on both sides seems to be a relic from the old days.

CDU politician: "China is a brutal dictatorship"

The human rights spokesman for the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, Michael Brand, is also part of the China-Parliamentarians Alliance, which wants to develop solutions "what governments, society and business must do in order not to fall victim to the global hegemony sought by China" , as he emphasized in an interview with the Tagesspiegel. "One must not forget: China is a pretty brutal dictatorship, not just an economic power."

[Every morning we inform you, dear readers, in our morning situation about political decisions, news and background information. You can register for free here.]

China breaks "with full awareness of international contracts in the field of business, aggressively engages in industrial espionage or destroys the market opportunities for German and European products through illegal subsidies in order to force Chinese products onto the market," emphasizes Brand.

"We have looked at this far too passively for far too long, and that is why the EU must make it unmistakably clear to the Chinese partners under the German Council Presidency that we are no longer watching these permanent violations and the despised international rules and standards and taking countermeasures if necessary." The regime does not react to good persuasion.

China's WTO accession a mistake?

Springer boss Matthias Döpfner recently said in a controversy with Asia expert Kishore Mahbubani: “The fact that China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in 2001 was a historical mistake. The desired change through trade only led to the fact that today we are dealing with an even more authoritarian China, ”said Döpfner. “China's share of global value added rose from eight to about 19 percent, while the USA fell from 20 to 15 percent and Europe's share from 24 to 16 percent. The competition was never fair. "

From the perspective of the Chinese leadership, change through trade was never an issue according to the Western understanding. Max J. Zenglein, chief economist of the Mercator Institute for China Studies, emphasizes: “Europe and China are not united by a community of values, but essentially purely economic interests. And here, too, there has recently been a crunch due to disappointing reform progress in China ”.

[Keep track of things: every morning from 6 a.m., editor-in-chief Lorenz Maroldt and his team report in the Tagesspiegel newsletter Checkpoint on the latest developments relating to the coronavirus. Register now for free: checkpoint.tagesspiegel.de.]

Nevertheless, he considers worries about increasing takeover risks in Europe by Chinese companies to be unfounded. "On the one hand, there is increasing resistance in European politics, on the other hand, the Chinese economy itself is also struggling with the effects of the Corona crisis."

Europe is looking for the way to more independence

It is now all the more important that the EU stands firm on important issues such as market access or subsidies "and demands from China what has long been promised". Fear of economic reprisals cannot be part of the relationship. In times when the US government under Trump has become an insecure Katonist, many EU politicians need more self-confidence and European independence.

"A Chinese dominance would have a direct impact not only on the economy and jobs, but also in the medium and long term for freedom and our social model," says the CDU politician Brand. His conclusion: "The cozy old days are simply over."

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page