We need to talk about Germany.
Let’s start with an inconvenient truth:
German governments, both past and present, have consistently prioritized trade with China over other enlightened German national interests, for example democracy and human rights.
Such a commercially-driven China engagement, however, is not a value-free proposition.
Whether it is the incarceration of 1.5 million Uyghurs and Kazakhs in mainland Chinese internment and labor camps, the suppression of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, or the cover-up of Covid-19:
German Chancellor Merkel does not seem to fully appreciate how continued Communist Party rule endangers peace, security and public health, not just in China, but around the world.
There are now attempts to develop a “more robust strategy” toward China.
It is self-evident that the EU will struggle to develop a more assertive European China policy without the backing of Germany.
But how can German diplomats change tack if Chancellor Merkel is unwilling to give directions?
It is understandable that a nation which is guilty of the horrors of the Holocaust is wary of playing an assertive global leadership role.
But there is also a real danger of an ‘oblivion of power’, where Germany in fact underutilizes existing leverage in global affairs.
Germany is often praised for facing up to its Nazi past. Never again has long been a guiding principle of an ethical German foreign policy.
But how then can the German government remain silent when Uyghurs and Kazakhs are incarcerated, Hong Kongers have their civil and political liberties stripped away and Taiwanese are threatened with military annexation?
China under General Secretary Xi Jinping is regressing on all fronts: human rights violations are now systemic and endemic, even criticism by Chinese academics are no longer tolerated, and the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly aping Russian disinformation strategies in Europe.
Germany must now ask if it will continue to actively support such a regime.