Germany’s Baerbock to China: “Very serious” about ending dependency | DW Interview

Germany’s Baerbock to China: “Very serious” about ending dependency | DW Interview
In a special interview with DW’s Richard Walker, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warns Beijing that she is “very serious” about reducing Germany’s economic dependency on China. Baerbock said Germany must ensure that it cannot again fall victim with blackmail — as it did over its dependence on Russian energy.

Baerbock is currently masterminding Germany’s new national security strategy, and explains her priorities in developing the new plan. Is Germany doing enough to support Ukraine? Is it prepared for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan? And does the West still have any moral high ground in the “systemic competition” between democracies and autocracies?

Germany is developing a national
security strategy for the first time
for critics this is long overdue they
say that a lack of clear strategic
thinking is now landing Germany in all
sorts of problems with dependencies on
foreign hostile powers for energy and
for its economy
but is Germany serious about making a
change i’m going to talk to the woman at
the heart of the process
germany’s foreign minister annalina
bearbach
analina bailbot many thanks for joining
deutsche weller i would like to begin uh
with the war in ukraine which of course
is the backdrop to developing uh
germany’s new national security strategy
your russian counterpart sergey lavrov
has just said that russia is expanding
its focus uh from donetsk and luhansk in
the east of the country to harrison and
other regions in the south this seems to
confirm
the notion that russia is aiming to
annex these territories perhaps even cut
off ukraine entirely from the black sea
what’s your response to that
well the same as it had been in the last
two months we support ukraine not only
with solidarity not only by mentioning
every day that this is a fundamental
breach of international law by russia
but also with military support so they
can self-defend their country their
territory and Russia is using every time
a different argument um so this time
it’s because of the military support
they are saying but they have been
attacking kiev and other parts of
ukraine before so it’s just a new
propaganda from the russian side
and yet your government has been accused
of simply not doing enough to help
ukraine um fight back despite promises
of a turning point in germany’s attitude
to security according to the keel
institute the german research institute
germany is in sixth place in delivering
weapons behind the united states behind
poland behind the uk canada and
norway do you believe that germany’s
responsibility to ukraine is less than
that of norway
well i don’t know the figures yet there
are different figures in place if you
calculate money or if you calculate the
intensity for your weapon but this is
not a race of who’s on which place in a
ranking this is about a common support
from the whole international community
from nato member states to support
ukraine and this is why we combine our
support also with others because in some
stocks we don’t have everything for
example we are delivering together with
Netherlands howitzers we are looking
with some parts for munitions from
others because we don’t have the correct
ammunition and i think this is the
strength of our support that we don’t do
it in
in difference with other states but that
we combine our support everybody has to
look where we can do uh more uh we have
the challenge as many european states
that
we have in our own stocks not everything
ukrainian is needing this is why we are
sending for example iris t one of the
most advanced um
air missile defense systems which is
just in the production and is hopefully
coming end of summer and yes we are
always uh reconsidering what we can do
more to support ukraine more and and yet
you say that there’s no looking at
rankings and yet Germany has been
criticized particularly by eastern
European neighbors and by ukraine itself
for being behind other countries to
repeat including norway on the defense
side and to look at another measure
measured by the keel institute
financial contributions as a percentage
of gdp
germany is in 13th place there
well i can just repeat myself we are
looking in different kinds of support
what we can do also with support with
investigations with support of
demining different cities with support
and medical aid with support in refugees
um and uh yes if there are things where
we can do more also with uh direct uh
finance grants which we are currently
discussing we are also looking into this
but i’m sorry also for the arguments
there have been some arguments in the
beginning which were right uh we um had
to be faster this is what we did all
together and when i was in kiev lately
and also when the chancellor was there
also from the government they said um
well thank you for the support obviously
if you’re in a time of war um everything
has to be way faster and this is why we
reconsider why some of the deliveries
takes longer also with
with the back filling for example which
we are supposed to go together with the
poles so i think also with regards to
poland it’s important that we work
together and not against each other
because the backfilling from germany and
poland only works if we do it together
um and this is the effort i think we
have to intensify
now the war has exposed of course
germany’s very severe dependency on
russian gas we’ve been seeing that in
particular this very week when you
launched the national security strategy
process you said you highlighted the
issues of dependencies so i would like
to look at another dependency that
germany has on china for its economy
this is one that could go very wrong
people are saying now you are developing
a new china strategy as part of this
process how serious are you about
tackling and reducing this economic
dependency on china
very serious otherwise it wouldn’t make
sense to make a strategy if you’re not
serious about strategies you shouldn’t
do one so this is why we are looking
intensively about our in dependencies
but as we see also with russia some
things you cannot cut from one day uh to
the other and there are similar
questions for many european countries
for example if we are going correctly
now to electrific cars
to be in line with our climate goals we
need obviously batteries
we we don’t have a battery production as
we need for electric cars now we are
starting one but all the materials which
are in the batteries we have a
dependency of a 98 and this counts for
all the cars
in europe so this is why our china
strategy is also not an isolated german
one but because we are integrated
internal market we are doing it in line
with our european partners with the eu
commission who has also made very clear
that china is um
not only a competitor in some of
economic question it’s also a partner
fighting the climate crisis but also a
system rival and because it’s a system
rival we have to make clear that and
nobody can blackmail us as we were with
regard our dependency to to russia and
this is the baseline for a new china
strategy working together where we can
work together but having also a
sovereign european strategy of
independence in critical infrastructure
and especially in line with our foreign
policy well let’s pick up on cars you
mentioned the auto industry which is so
important to germany now volkswagen has
no fewer than 33 joint venture factories
in china bmw just started production at
a new one last month
mercedes has even got a new research and
development center in china its two
largest shareholders are from china
what happens to all of these investments
if china say invades taiwan
well first of all this is what we have
to prevent and this is why it’s so
important that the whole international
community um um
is
in line with the united nations general
assembly saying that this fundamental
breach of international law by russia
against ukraine cannot be tolerated
because otherwise it would be an
invitation to other countries like china
to also invade taiwan or other countries
who think they are bigger neighbor of
smaller countries um secondly we have to
be prepared we see it as i said already
before with regard to our dependency in
russia but i would like to underline
even so we had this dependency even
though for example myself i’ve been
always very critical with regard to
north stream too but even though we had
this strong ties economic wise we took
the sanctions we are taking right now
and this is something where i would like
to underline also with regard to china
or other parts of the world economic
interests and values are now different
uh parts of a coin they are part of the
same uh coin because it’s also in the
interest of the german economy as well
as in european interest that
other company countries and also other
companies have to be in line with our
standards and values
and this is why we have this strong
discussion about our dependency also in
the car uh production side as you have
mentioned with regard to china so do you
think those investments is that is
germany simply too exposed in its auto
industry in china is
it germany car companies simply gone too
far there do you think
well we obviously have to reflect uh how
our dependencies are and german car
companies are highly engaged in the
china market but on the other way around
i would also like to say this is not
black and white china is also very
dependent from europe because also their
export to the european market is very
high i mean this is not a one uh way
street this is a in both direction
nobody you shouldn’t make us like
smaller than we are and i think this is
our problem from the past as europeans
that we thought okay we just have to be
silent because we’re depending on others
no we have to stand up for our values we
have to stand up for our interests and
use our integrated market which is one
of the biggest worldwide but that was
always the argument in favor of the
energy relationship with russia people
would always say well russia needs
europe just as much as europe needs
russia that’s obviously not true
well because we had uh with regards and
others some kind of dependencies but we
see already now why we are cutting all
our economic ties to russia well
obviously it hurts russia very badly but
if you have a regime like in russia
right now which doesn’t care at all
anymore about their economy about the
interest of their people about their
societies obviously it’s way easier for
autocratic regimes to do whatever they
want because if they have any
they just bring people to jail which we
don’t do in democracies and this is not
that sanctions don’t have any
any results but if there’s somebody who
says the war is above everything
obviously it doesn’t stop him at this
moment but just quickly to return to the
question of taiwan have you
worked through scenarios at the foreign
ministry since you took over since you
became foreign minister of a chinese
invasion
well as i said we are starting with our
china strategy well obviously we are
thinking also about different scenarios
uh with taiwan but uh not isolated we
are doing this with our partners in the
u.s we are doing this with our nato
party and we have just formulated a new
nato strategic concept saying that
currently
russia is our biggest threat but china
might be our biggest threat in the
future because also of its economic
power and this is why we have to be more
resilient uh with this is why we have to
have a strategic sovereignty as a
european union altogether and again not
an isolated german one because our power
is the common eu power we see this now
with regard to russia and we will also
see it in the future as a common china
strategy from the european union where
the eu where the german strategy is
integrated and a very senior german
figure in the european union nicola bear
vice president of the european
parliament has been in taiwan this week
do you support that trip
well you want to nail me down now on
single issues on taiwan i’ve just been
in the region myself i’ve been in japan
i’ve discussed with
japanese with our american friends over
there where different boats are lying
also in the in the streets of of tehran
so obviously this is
one of the very valuable
parts of our security strategy of our
french the in the regions and it’s also
in our own security interest and this is
why we have also different relationships
we have also friendship group in the
europe in the german bundestag
which i’ve been a member in the past
myself so um this is a common
german and also a common eu strategy and
we have seen also with lithuania for
example
when there was pressure because of the
tehran issue how important it is that
european countries stand united together
but do you support her visit i didn’t
even know that she was there i’m sorry i
cannot
comment on every trip
okay but do you think it’s in principle
good for people of that stature well
traveling is always good
um the coalition agreement frames this
era of one of strategic rivalry and you
mentioned that with respect to to china
already and um a strategic competition
between democracies on one hand and
autocracies like china and russia on the
other hand at the moment this is really
playing out very much on the african
continent and we can see this in china’s
huge investments in infrastructure there
we can see that in russian mercenaries
going into mali and crowding out german
forces in mali
can you understand
people on the african continent maybe
not being too happy about their
continent being used as a sort of
battlefield between the great powers of
the world yes definitely no place on
earth should be a battlefield for other
powers
but what we are seeing there is a
systemic contest being played out
between
the united states between the europeans
between the russians between the chinese
is this not the case and germany is
playing a part in that with also we’re
beginning to see that also with with the
european union’s new investment plan
no because we have a total different
approach than china or also russia in
this regard we don’t go to countries
where we are not being in invited
accepting cases whereas fundamental
breach of international law and where
there’s a for example the question uh
with regard to genocide or other forms
but this is then up to the united
nations to call on the international
support uh as we have seen in in the
past with regards to mali for example
you were relating to russian engagement
there’s a united nation mission which is
called minisma and this is uh with
regards to
even mali saying well we need here
protection for the development workers
we need protection here that i’ve been
been there i talked to
women who just wanted to go to the
market and saying we are afraid we
cannot go there anymore because of the
insecurity in our hometowns in our home
uh region and i think this is very
important for international community to
don’t close the eyes but obviously
currently
the
the current um
transmission interim
regime there is is uh
trying to
to to make the work almost impossible
from a united nation a
um in their own region which is uh
securing the the security for um civil
work for humanitarian work uh on the
ground and with other forms i mean we
are i just have been at the petersburg
climate dialogue there are so many
countries in africa so many countries
also small small island states who say
we want the investments with regard to
climate change energy transitions and
the question is what kind of agreements
we are making and i think it’s like from
eye to eye this is not we are coming and
looking down this is corporation
investments we are offering no deals
where we say like china okay we invest
and if you cannot pay it back we own the
whole port we own the whole
infrastructure but we are what we are
for example saying with our energy
investments we help you to transform
from diesel generators for example to
solar panels but together as a
cooperative partnership
also talked
in your speech announcing the strategy
about a sort of values-driven
foreign policy
um
the question is has this not been
undermined very much in the west by
events of recent years i was recently
back from india when
looking at the war in ukraine
many people in india would be saying
well how is that any worse than what the
united states did in iraq earlier this
century the united states wanted to
dominate the middle east putin wants to
dominate ukraine isn’t it much the same
a bridge of international law is always
wrong otherwise we wouldn’t have agreed
on this international rule and actually
this was the same argument the chinese
foreign minister used when i had the
discussion with him and i was underlying
well this is why for example the german
government with regard to iraq said we
don’t see the arguments and we are not
participating and this is why i called
on china for example this is the moment
from you to stand with international law
and say well this russian invasion in
ukraine is wrong this is about politics
you can make your own decisions it’s up
to us it’s in our responsibility and in
a time
where you have to decide between justice
and injustice where you have to decide
between defending civilians or
supporting an aggressor it’s up to
politicians responsibilities
to take aside and as this one tutu has
correctly said already in the past if
you keep silent
you are taking the side of the oppressor
germany’s third and last massive
dependencies on the united states for
its security
if you look ahead to the next election
how concerned are you that there could
be a new president coming in who’s not
committed to nato what does that mean
for germany
well i think the current uh moment shows
how important strong transatlantic ties
are
if we are defending together our freedom
our
liberty but especially our democracy we
are very strong we have value partners
and this is why it was so important that
also in the nato strategic concept we
defined that this is not about military
only the nato is not there for itself
the nato is there to defend in times of
war
democracy
freedom
human rights and standing united in this
is the really the the bottom of the new
strategic concept of nato and at this
moment we have a strong alliance between
the eu partners together with our
american partners and this is something
we would like to build on also in the
future and this is why we are also
addressing for example right now when
there are attacks also in the u.s on
state institutions on
fundamental rights that we address well
if if you want to live up as democracies
you cannot be silent if you see these
kind of attacks
just a very quick final thought just to
stand back from all of this um this is a
big moment for germa he’s never had a
national security strategy it’s been
criticism of germany in the past have
been complacent of being naive
what kind of a germany do you want to
see emerge from this current crisis what
do you want to be the headlines about
germany’s position on national security
going forward
well actually
if you’re making politics only with
looking for headlines i think you are
just putting a flag in the wind as you
would say in a german
language
i truly believe that
every time
has its answers and when you look back
for german foreign policy in the past
i am the lucky person 40 year old
that i can live had could live my whole
life in peace
because
foreign policy in germany was successful
in um
building trust with our neighbors uh
after the horrible times of the second
world war that we could build the eu
together and my country would have been
never united again if there wouldn’t be
the european integration process so the
biggest security for germany has been
the european integration process and now
it’s time to give this back to our
friends and partners within europe that
a
strong and
careful
but also
germany which takes up its
responsibility in solidarity with our
partners guarantees the peace project
for europe and this is the bottom line
for security strategy and this is why we
have changed for example our defense
policy but
living in pieces more than defense it’s
more than diplomacy it’s also ensuring
our democracy via
for example intensifying our defense
with regard to the digital world with
regard to fake news all securing we have
the hottest day ever today here in my
hometown hanover 40 degrees in in summer
southern europe is burning so this is
the third part of our national security
strategy the security with regard to our
livelihood and the bigger threat the
climate crisis
elena balbock thank you very much for
speaking to dw today thanks so much all
the best
you

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