Published: 12:19, April 19, 2024
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Germany must 'de-risk' by expanding cooperation
By Chen Weihua

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's three-day visit to China has helped him better understand how China views bilateral relations and many of the hotspot issues. It's good that Scholz, while pledging support for Ukraine, emphasized the importance of diplomatic efforts to end the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Scholz's remark is a good sign, especially because the United States, NATO and the European Union have abandoned diplomacy and dialogue. Talking about diplomacy has become politically incorrect, and is often labeled as appeasement of Russia.

Hopefully, more EU countries' leaders will join Scholz in pursuing diplomacy to help end the conflict, because that's the only way to do so. If the past 25 months have proven anything, it is that no solution to the crisis can be found on the battlefield, except that more lives will be lost and cities destroyed.

However, diplomacy by excluding the participation of Russia, as some Western leaders insist, is simply not viable — it is bad diplomacy.

China has been urging the two sides to agree to a cease-fire and resolve their disputes through diplomacy since day one. Its 12-point position paper on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, released about a year ago, shows China is an honest peace-broker. In fact, China's special envoy for Eurasian affairs Li Hui was busy in shuttle diplomacy last month, trying to find a peaceful resolution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

That’s brilliant thinking since boosting cooperation and building mutual trust will reduce risks

There is no doubt that the "crippling" Western sanctions against Russia have failed. As a matter of fact, they have hurt EU countries, particularly Germany, more than Russia. The International Monetary Fund announced earlier this week that the Russian economy grew by 3.6 percent last year and is forecast to grow by 3.2 percent this year, much faster than any of the G7 economies. In contrast, the German economy declined by 0.3 percent last year and will grow by only 0.2 percent this year.

Badmouthing China, India and scores of other countries for maintaining normal trade relations with Russia won't help resolve the Ukraine crisis. The blame game over the Ukraine crisis was started by the United States to divert global attention from its failures on multiple fronts and its inability to solve many of its domestic problems.

Despite a decline in volume, Russian exports to Europe added up to $84.9 billion in 2023 while its imports from Europe reached $78.5 billion. Surprisingly, the US, too, continued to trade with Russia in 2023.

As Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said in January 2023, "if it was a matter of principle, why didn't Europe cut off energy from Moscow on Feb 25,(2022)". It's an open secret that record amounts of Russian crude have been sold to Europe by Indian refiners.

Returning to Scholz's just-concluded visit to China, it drew widespread attention also because it was his first since Germany unveiled its new China policy last summer. And according to insiders, the strategy for "de-risking" from China was heavily influenced by the Green Party, which is a partner in the coalition government, especially Greens leaders, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck.

But both the ministers seem to be out of touch with the German business community which continues to invest in China despite some grievances.

As one Bosch senior executive told me, the company's strategy to "de-risk" from China is increasing its presence in China. That's brilliant thinking since boosting cooperation and building mutual trust will reduce risks. Fearmongering about China, as Baerbock does, will create more risks for both sides.

Scholz emphasized the importance of pragmatism in tackling some thorny issues, including the so-called subsidies and overcapacity issues. He added that many countries provide subsidies, referring to the monstrous US Inflation Reduction Act, which has been viewed as a major threat in EU.

Faced with growing challenges, the world needs cooperation and pragmatism, instead of confrontation which could lead to another Cold War. Few countries suffered more during the Cold War than Germany when the country was divided into East Germany and West Germany.

Therefore, China and Germany should increase their cooperation so our generation and the future generations won't have to live in the shadows of another Cold War.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.