Second Cold War? Merkel Successor Says Germany Should Not Try to Contain Communist China

BEVERUNGEN, GERMANY - APRIL 27: German Chancellor and Chairwoman of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel (R) and local CDU lead candidate Armin Laschet (L) look on during the opening CDU campaign rally for state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia on April 27, 2017 in Beverungen, Germany. North Rhine-Westphalia is …
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The leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the likely successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany should refrain from trying to contain the rise of Communist China for fear of sparking a second Cold War.

Armin Laschet, who replaced Angela Merkel as leader of Germany’s governing party earlier this year and is widely expected to become the next Chancellor later this year, said that an adversarial stance towards the communist regime in Beijing would be counterproductive and that his government would look to partner with the CCP on issues such as climate change.

“The question is — if we’re talking about ‘restraining’ China, will that lead to a new conflict? Do we need a new adversary?” Laschet said in an interview with the Financial Times, adding: “And there the European response was cautious, because, yes, China is a competitor and a systemic rival, it has a different model of society, but it’s also a partner, particularly in things like fighting climate change.”

The continuity Merkel candidate for the German chancellorship said that the West should refrain from taking a Cold War-style stance towards China.

“The 21st century is very different and the prism of how the world looked before 1989 offers limited advice,” he explained, adding: “We have a multipolar world [now] with different actors.”

The CDU politician went on to say that while Germany should not refrain from addressing “critical issues”, he expressed doubt over the effectiveness of challenging authoritarian regimes, such as China, on their human rights records.

“I’m not sure that always speaking out, loudly and aggressively, in public about a country’s human rights situation really leads to improvements on the ground,” Laschet said.

“Often you can reach more in the area of human rights by addressing issues in private conversations with leaders of other countries than by talking about it in press conferences,” he added.

The CDU leader claimed that this would not mean that he would take a soft approach on China if elected, saying: “I would try to foster our partnership wherever possible, and, at the same time, make clear what we expect from China: that it accept reciprocity, embrace multilateralism and respect human rights.”

Laschet has long been seen, however, as a pro-China politician in Germany, through backing more economic integration with the communist regime, in areas such as trade and technology.

In November, for example, he came out in opposition to a ban on Chinese telecom giant Huawei from the nation’s 5G network, despite security concerns expressed by the Trump administration.

“The consequence of a rejection would be that the entry into this technology would be delayed, which cannot be the goal… As an export-oriented country, we have a great interest in free trade. Germany as an industrial location thrives on international exports, including to China,” he said.

During Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tenure in office, Germany has seen increasing ties with the communist regime, with China becoming the country’s top trading partner in 2018.

Merkel has also been a leading force in trying to push through a massive trade deal between the European Union and China, a deal which was ultimately put on hold after a series of tit-for-tat sanctions between the bloc and Beijing.

German companies, including Volkswagen and BMW, have been accused of profiting from the use of slave labour in the Xinjiang region, where millions of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been reportedly interned in concentration camps.

While the German Green Party has attempted to take a stronger line on China’s human rights abuses, the party has faltered in the polls and Lashet and Merkel’s CDU are expected to retain control of the government in the September elections.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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