Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock prior to her departure for China and South Korea
Partner, competitor, systemic rival – that is the compass of Europe’s policy on China. The direction in which the dial will shift in the future also depends on which path China chooses. With our new China strategy, we will take into account China’s changed role in the world. For our country, a great deal depends on whether we achieve the right balance in our future relations with China – as our biggest trading partner and as a global player that increasingly wants to shape the world order according to its own designs. China has changed, and after the end of the COVID‑19 restrictions, I want to gain a first-hand impression of the direction that the new leadership is heading in, also with regard to the balance between political control and economic openness.
I want to explore opportunities for greater cooperation in the promotion of civil society, in climate protection and in sectors of the future such as renewable energies. For me, it is clear that we have no interest in economic decoupling – this would be difficult to achieve in a globalised world in any case – but we must take a more systematic look at the risks of unilateral dependencies and reduce them, in the sense of de‑risking. This is especially true in view of the terrifying scenario of a military escalation in the Taiwan Strait, through which 50 percent of the world’s trade flows every single day. During my visit, I will therefore also underline the common European conviction that a unilateral change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and especially military escalation, would be unacceptable.
At the top of my agenda on this trip, however, is our interest in bringing the war on our European doorstep in Ukraine to a swift, lasting and just end. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China bears a special responsibility for world peace. China’s willingness to weigh in on global affairs was recently demonstrated by its mediation efforts to normalise diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The role that China plays with its influence vis‑à‑vis Russia will have consequences for the whole of Europe and for our relationship with China.
It goes without saying that I want to talk in China about the protection of universal human rights – which must be part of a level playing field. And with China, which is now the world’s biggest emitter of CO2 and also the market leader in renewable energies, a focus will be on how we can do more together to tackle the climate crisis.
South Korea is a close ally and stands firmly by our side. This shows that political proximity cannot be measured in terms of geographical distance. In addition to robust democratic values, the experience of national division is something that unites us with South Korea. Our shared interest in regional stability in the Indo-Pacific, which has recently come under serious threat due to North Korea’s missile tests in violation of international law, will also be on the agenda. It is all the more significant that, thanks to the historic rapprochement of South Korea and Japan, two of Germany’s good friends have come together. After all, our external strength as allies is derived from our internal cohesion as partners with shared values around the world.