Brussels (Brussels Morning) Departing Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that Germany may have been naive in certain cases when it came to dealing with China, but insisted nevertheless that it would be bad to sever all connections to Beijing over growing tensions.
Interviewed by Reuters, Merkel called on Germany and the European Union to continue cooperating with China, noting that both sides stand to learn from one another.
“Maybe initially we were rather too naive in our approach to some cooperation partnership”, the the long-serving Chancellor said. “These days we look more closely, and rightly so”, she added. Still, she believes it would be a mistake to cut all ties. “Total decoupling wouldn’t be right in my view, it would be damaging for us”, she observed.
Germany has become Europe’s top trading partner with China in the course of Merkel’s 16 years in office, and the Chancellor’s strategy has also influenced the policies of other European countries, shaping the EU’s stance on Beijing despite growing concerns about unfair competition and industrial espionage.
The partnership with China helped fuel German growth during the Merkel years, but her critics now point out that Germany might have become overly reliant on China. This, they contend, has, in turn, led to official Berlin becoming too soft on Beijing on a range of uncomfortable issues, such as human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
Merkel, having planned to retire, did not run in the September elections. Currently, she remains in power in a caretaker capacity while a new ruling coalition is formed, one which is likely to exclude her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The upcoming coalition, consisting of Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) is much more likely to take a tougher stance towards China, both for its anti-competitive practices and its human rights track record.