Scholz caught between American pressure and Chinese partnership – OPINION

Editor's note: political scientist, Eastern European historian, former government advisor of the Federal Republic of Germany Alexander Rahr.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has concluded his official visit to China, where he visited several cities and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, some disagreements that emerged during the visit impacted bilateral cooperation.

Relations between Germany and China are fraught with complexities. A major arena of competition between the two nations is the development of green technologies. Germany aimed to lead in this sector, but China has overtaken it by leveraging more accessible resources and offering superior quality products at lower prices.

This competition is further complicated by political disagreements. German chancellor Olaf Scholz has been trying to persuade China to join Western sanctions against Russia, but China, citing its national interests, has refused. Scholz, facing opposition, attempts not only to persuade but perhaps to compel Xi Jinping to shift his stance, highlighting the depth of the conflict. This complexity is intensified by U.S. pressure on Germany to reduce its ties with China in anticipation of potential conflicts, particularly concerning Taiwan.

Failing to meet Washington's expectations could jeopardize Germany's status as a reliable U.S. ally. However, Germany's economic reliance on China complicates a complete disengagement. The German economy is heavily dependent on Chinese trade, placing Scholz in a difficult position between adhering to American directives and maintaining vital economic relationships.

In this context, the U.S. is urging Europe, especially Germany, to distance itself from China by reducing goods purchases and avoiding long-term agreements. They warn of a potential serious conflict that might escalate from economic sanctions to military action. Relations between the U.S. and its European allies are strained, as Washington demands their unequivocal support.

For countries like Germany, the dilemma arises: if they follow American directives, from where will they source the necessary economic and industrial resources, which are significantly dependent on China and countries under its influence? This issue is particularly relevant given China's growing influence in Africa, which Europe is keenly aware of.

Without cooperation with China, European nations, including Germany, risk losing the economic prosperity they have achieved over the last decades. Major German companies, aware of their expanding market opportunities in China, are pressuring Chancellor Scholz to uphold their interests in these dealings. They prefer geo-economic engagement over geopolitical confrontations, seeing the Chinese market as a source of greater revenue than Europe, while also contributing to Germany's fiscal revenue.

On one hand, Scholz must heed U.S. demands to distance from China and pivot towards the more expensive American resource base.

On the other hand, he recognizes that it is impossible to sever ties with China completely. Europe must develop its own strategic relationships with China, independently of the U.S., a challenging task. Scholz, considering all factors, decides that supporting the economic ambitions of German companies in China is necessary. Simultaneously, he attempts to convince Xi Jinping to join the sanctions against Russia, although he acknowledges the low probability of success. Despite this, he views his diplomatic efforts as successful.

China may perceive itself as a global power expected to participate in peace efforts in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Scholz believes he has, at least on paper, formed a coalition with Beijing to advance peace initiatives. He hopes that China, acting as a neutral mediator, can achieve diplomatic successes acceptable to Western Europe and help end the conflict in Ukraine.

Therefore, Germany faces significant geopolitical and geo-economic challenges that greatly impact its international politics and shape its foreign policy strategy in the contemporary world.



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