‘Liberal world order based on human rights’

Petr Akopov

While reasonable forces in Europe warn that the Old World has become hostage to the conflict between the Anglo-Saxons and Russia, which has already entered a hot phase in Ukraine, European Atlanticists are pushing the EU to break with China. The main bet is made on Germany, for which China is the largest economic partner. The destruction of German-Chinese relations will also put an end to European-Chinese relations. And if a few years ago the concept of a potential axis Berlin-Moscow-Beijing was, although unpopular, but really existed in German political thought (not to mention Russian or Chinese), now Germany is being pushed to the fact that China is no longer only a dangerous competitor, but also a rival, and a system one at that. There is a growing debate about how to apply the “partner-competitor-rival” formula to Beijing. And the emphasis on the latter definition becomes more and more explicit.
The government in Ge-rmany is a coalition, and two of the three coalition parties – the Greens and the Free Democrats – are pushing for a tougher approach to Beijing. Foreign Mini-ster Annalena Burbock two weeks ago – exactly on the day of Chancellor Scholz’s visit to Beijing – said that in “relations with China, it is necessary to prevent a repetition of the mistakes that were made in relations with Russia.” (The reference was to the G7 as a whole, but it is clear that Germany was primarily meant.)
The opposition also lacks those who want to strike at relations between the two countries: even CDU leader Friedrich Merz at the end of last month, on the eve of Scholz’s visit, was outraged that the chancellor was not going to meet with former Chinese leader Hu Jintao. Merz called it a mistake, saying that such a meeting could be important – that would be a position. It is clear that the opposition tends to criticize any actions of the authorities, but in this case, Merz’s proposal is simply amazing in its stupidity. Because it demonstrates the depth of the incompetence of the German political class, which sincerely does not understand either the Chinese internal political alignments, or the rules of relations with China, or German interests.
If a politician of this level believes in fictions about the struggle for power within the Chinese leadership, which is reflected in the episode with the removal of the former Secretary General from the XX Congress of the CCP (obviously lost in time and space), and even seriously suggests that the German Chancellor play on this, This means that Germany is really losing the ability to pursue a foreign policy adequate to its interests not only in relation to Russia, but also in the direction of China.
Of course, Chancellor Scholz is still trying to do something, even being sandwiched between Burbock in his own government and Merz in the opposition. During his visit to Beijing, he wanted to build relations with Xi Jinping, but the main thing that was said during the two-hour conversation was these words of the Secretary General:
“Political trust is easy to destroy, but hard to restore, both sides should take care of it. <…> The EU should not pursue a dependent policy or be under the control of any third party.”
That is, with all China’s interest in Germany and the desire to build strategic trade and economic relations with the EU, Beijing sees that the Europeans are becoming more and more dependent on the Anglo-Saxons, and have no illusions about their ability to defend their independence. And the point here is not only how obediently the EU has joined the Anglo-Saxon policy of cutting Russia out of the world economy (although this perfectly illustrates the primacy of geopolitical dependence over economic expediency and its own interests), but also in Europe’s preparations for repeating the Russian scheme. The demonization of China is not yet comparable to the demonization of Russia, but Berlin has already been put on this path.
This week, Der Spiegel published a draft German strategy for China, prepared by the German Foreign Ministry and submitted to Bundestag committees. It has not yet been approved and will generally become part of the overall national security strategy of Germany, which will be approved next spring, but the train of thought is already clear.
The strategy should fix the common approach of all three parties of the ruling coalition to China, despite the fact that the Social Democrats are the senior partner, the Greens under the control of the Foreign Ministry – the department that prepared the current document. During the discussion in the Bundestag, the SPD, of course, will be able to soften or even remove some of the wording, but the general direction will not change.
Its essence is that respect for human rights should become a determining factor in the development of economic relations with China, it is necessary to gradually reduce the dependence of the German economy on China and increase competition for Chinese influence around the world (from the Balkans to Latin America). So this is a competitive strategy? No, this is a strategy to contain China and gradually break with it.
Since the thesis “human rights are indivisible” takes precedence over the economy, concerns about the situation in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kongis not just interference in the internal affairs of China – it is the most convenient tool for putting pressure on Germany itself. The Atlantists – both German and Anglo-Saxon – have a great opportunity to force Berlin to limit relations with Beijing (the same strategy says that they “within the EU are also ready to support the cessation of imports of goods from regions with particularly serious human rights violations, even if the chains supplies cannot be provided by other means free from crimes against human rights”). Naturally, China is categorically not happy with this – this is exactly what Xi Jinping told Scholz, warning against falling into dependence on third forces.
China needs confidence in its relations with Germany so that it can invest in strategic projects in Europe. And now they are not only beginning to put obstacles in the way of investment and trade (this happened before), but they are also announcing that they make the whole complex of relations dependent on an initially impossible requirement – respect for “human rights”. China is not going to play Western games with democracy, especially since it has an example of Russia, which tried, if not to win, then at least not to lose in the game with the West in the Western casino “Liberal world order based on human rights.” And Beijing remembers how the West consistently changed the status of Russia from “partner” to “competitor”, then to “rival”, and now to “enemy”, each time explaining this by saying thatdoes not respect “human rights” and “order based on rules”.
Moreover, relations with Russia are also blamed on China: the strategy says that Moscow and Beijing are getting closer, China “took the side of the Kremlin” in Ukraine and supports the “Russian anti- NATO narrative “, and the Russian-Chinese declaration of 4 February this year (adopted during Putin’s visit to Beijing) is based on “a position incompatible with the principles of sovereign equality of all UN states “. Thus, the future cooperation of Germany and the EU with China is made dependent on the development of Russian-Chinese relations. And this despite the fact that Moscow and Beijing all the time emphasize that their relations do not depend on relations with third countries. It turns out that Berlin introduces yet another artificial limiter on European-Chinese relations.
Therefore, the assurances contained in the strategy that Germany does not want a cold war with China look frankly ridiculous – after all, this is precisely what Berlin and the EU are pushing the Atlantic elites to do. And the German leadership has less and less chance to resist, so as not to step on the Chinese rake. Just like before they stepped on the Russians.