Berlin : Giving China a major diplomatic setback, Germany has decided to focus on strong partnerships with democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region to promote the rule of law. According to a report by the Nikkei Asian Review, Berlin’s inclination towards the Indo-Pacific strategy comes after Europe expressed concern over China’s poor track record on human rights and its economic dependence on China.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on 2 September, “We want to help shape the global order of the future so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of someone powerful. That is why we have intensified cooperation with those countries which share our democratic and liberal values.”
Germany adopted new guidelines relating to the Indo-Pacific approach and emphasized the importance of rule of law and promotion of open markets in the region. The India-Pacific strategy has been endorsed by many other countries including India, Japan, Australia and ASEAN members.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, China was Germany’s diplomatic focal point in Asia, which led to German Chancellor Angela Merkel visiting China almost every year. It should also be noted that 50 percent of Germany’s total trade in the Indo-Pacific region is with China.
Although, as expected, economic growth has not opened up the Chinese market. German companies working in China have been forced by the Chinese government to hand over technology to them. In addition, China has halted talks between the European Union (EU) and China about an investment treaty to resolve such issues, raising Berlin’s concern about increased economic dependence on Beijing.
The move came amid growing criticism of China’s national security law in Hong Kong and their concentration camps for Uygar Muslims in Xinjiang, which has further increased resistance to Merkel’s pro-China policies.
Germany’s new Indo-Pacific approach takes a stern stance on China, including criticism of the heavy debt burden of countries participating in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).