The seventh Sino-German government consultations will take place in Berlin on June 20, China's new Premier Li Qiang and other ministers will be traveling to Germany. The talks will focus on the potential for cooperation on climate and sustainability, but also on issues of technology cooperation. Difficult topics such as human rights or China's positioning in the Ukraine war could be hitched on to the above topics.
Read the assessments of our experts in our MERICS Quick Take.
MERICS Executive Director Mikko Huotari:
"For China, the meeting is the message: Beijing wants to show that the dialogue with one of its most important trading partners is still on. For Germany, it is important to maintain communication channels, even in challenging times. It is in Germany's interest not to let geopolitical tensions with China escalate. When Olaf Scholz visited China last year, both sides agreed on intensifying cooperation on issues such as sustainability and global health. It is time to finally be more concrete here.
The German government's balancing act is becoming more difficult, not least because there is great uncertainty about China's course. At the same time, tensions within the coalition regarding China have subsided for now, but there may be trouble ahead with Brussels vis-à-vis key China topics of economic security, 5G networks or trade protection instruments in the automotive sector."
Bernhard Bartsch, Director External Relations at MERICS and editor of a new study on China's future development:
"Xi Jinping's 'reawakened China' is different: in the first ten years of his tenure, he departed from fundamental principles of the reform era. Our baseline scenario for the future is a 'Shaky China' which is prone to crisis. Even more extreme and confrontational scenarios are conceivable. Trends that emerged during Xi's first two terms might be reinforced: slower growth, greater external pressure and increasing central control. A return to a reform-minded and open China is unlikely under Xi. Politicians and business leaders in Germany and Europe must prepare for this."
Katja Drinhausen, Head of Program Politics and Society at MERICS:
“China has, time and again, called on Germany to prioritize pragmatism and not to politicize cooperation. This is a call to exclude unwanted topics, such as human rights, and avoid harming China's interests. Beijing is also countering the de-risking agenda by stressing that China does not pose a risk; rather, not cooperating would be the real risk. However, there is a long list of justified concerns on the German side – the Chinese side must acknowledge and deal with these. There is interest to cooperate on global problems and climate policy issues, but Germany is unlikely to fulfill Beijing's demands.
Gregor Sebastian, Economics Analyst at MERICS, sees a shift in Sino-German economic relations:
"China still needs German technology in many areas, but the balance is shifting. Beijing's industrial policy and huge domestic market are turning Chinese companies into global competitors for German firms. China is particularly strong in green tech such as e-vehicles, heat pumps and wind power. Germany’s economy could benefit from cooperation in areas such as batteries, where China seems well ahead, but such cooperation could run counter to the de-risking agenda. With regard to Brussels’ recent moves to strengthen trade defense instruments, China may seek Berlin's support in trying to maintain free trade between China and the EU."
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